Delivering On The 2017 World Ocean Conference Sustainable Development Goals

This weeks United Nations World Ocean Conference, co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden, takes place at the UN Headquarters in New York. Coinciding with this, Thursday 8th June is designated as "World Oceans Day". In this article we see how Civa Fiji Pearls will do our bit to commit and deliver on this years conference theme:  "To conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development"

Climate change and it's effects are very real and noticeable for many small island nations in  the South Pacific, and Fiji is no exception. Generally, such islands possess fewer resources to fight increased global pollution and the downstream hazards that result, such as more frequent and violent storms, rising seas, coastal erosion, ocean acidification, and coral bleaching.

With a couple of notable exceptions the larger more resourceful nations are taking steps to minimise future climate change brought about by human activity, and assist the smaller nations to do likewise - the aim to limit and possibly reverse the changes already apparent.

At Civa Fiji Pearls environmental protection has been a top priority since our inception. After all, our livelihood is dependent on a healthy oceanic environment. Today we reiterate our commitments and deliverable actions relevant the 2017 World Ocean Conference theme of sustainability.

Civa's Sustainability Commitments

Our four key sustainability commitments
  • We are committed to Pearl Farming Best Practice
  • We will strive to be a driving force for the sustainable development of our local communities
  • We aim to achieve long term profitability with long term environmental protection
  • We will be an educative force for the development of sustainable aquaculture in Fiji

Common Pearl Farming Bad Practices

Bad pearl farming practices adversely affect the environment and brings the pearl farming industry into disrepute. The Tahitian and Cook Island pearl industries are clear examples of locations where bad pearl farming practices are seriously affecting lagoon environments:
  • Bio-fouling pollution from pearl oyster cleaning processes chokes the capacity of the lagoons to grow quality oysters for pearl production. Smaller, weaker, disease-prone pearl oysters plague the Tahitian and Cook Island Pearl industry.
  • Translocation of pearl oysters seriously threatens lagoons health, and inadequate quarantine procedures spread disease.
  • Spat collecting is the process of collecting young oysters for pearl production. Locating spat collection in close proximity to the pearl farm will result in Inbreeding and weak pearl oysters.

Even though the Fijian Pearl Industry is young and very small, bad farming practices have already affected some sectors of Fiji. Fortunately there is still time to turn the tide.

Working with the Local Community

In previous press releases we have highlighted our work with the local community through the Vanua Trust of Laucala who represent the interests of local fishing rights owners. Initiatives to date include spat collection activities and Giant Clam farming trials on Qamea, and the distribution of 2.5% of Civa Fiji Pearls revenue to the community. A new initiative is now underway, also on Qamea, as part of our 2017 actions and deliverables.

Walking Hand-in-Hand: Sustainability and Profitability

Our oceans are the geese that lay our golden eggs. Kill the oceans and our supply of golden eggs dwindles to zero. Zero golden eggs means zero resources to sponsor, train, facilitate and grow additional small to medium scale sustainable aquaculture businesses with our local communities. Short-sighted approaches to pearl farming damage the environment and limit future growth potential. Taking the long view creates a virtuous circle of sustainability, profitability, distribution of wealth, and growth.

Our Sustainability Actions and Deliverables

Our 5 key sustainability deliverables and actions:
  • Continue to select translocated pearl oysters only from disease free areas
  • Commence recycling of ALL bio-fouling from pearl oyster cleaning via conversion to organic composted fertilizer for use on organic-certified farmlands
  • Locate all spat collecting grids a minimum distance of 5 nautical miles up current from the pearl farming sites
  • Provide technical assistance and training to implement a community based Half Pearl Farm by the end of 2017 (see below)
  • Convert the remaining outboard fleet from 2 stroke to more environmentally friendly 4 stroke engines by the end of 2018

Civa Fiji Pearls to Establish Half-Pearl Farm on Qamea

Villagers from Qamea will very soon benefit from the establishment of a pearl farm in their waters. Civa (Fiji) Pearls Ltd is partnering with the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) to establish a Half-Pearl (also called Mabe) farm in Qamea. The first half-pearl harvest will be in 2018 with annual subsequent harvests. An initial production target has been fixed at 2,500 half-pearls a year.

This research is part of a collaborative project between ACIAR (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research) and the Ministry of Fisheries to support sustainable development of a pearl and pearl-shell handicraft sector in Fiji. Civa (Fiji) Pearls ltd will provide the oysters used for half-pearl production at Qamea as well as some of the training and monitoring for this project. The Vanua Trust of Laucala will manage the farm through their womens group.

Professor Paul Southgate from University of the Sunshine Coast and Project Leader for the ACIAR project said “Community collection of juvenile oysters generates income for the community and provides improved supply of oysters to Fiji’s round pearl farms. So far, successful collection and sale of juvenile oysters has occurred at more than 15 communities across Fiji. These communities can use some of the oysters they collect to produce half-pearls for further income generation.

The ACIAR project has so far assisted a number of communities across Fiji to produce half-pearls, including the Raviravi Ladies Group, Natuvu Ladies Group, Ravita Ladies Group and Ratu Nemani (Vanua Levu), and the Namarai Youth Group (Viti Levu). The new farm at Qamea will be the sixth half-pearl farm established during the project and the first in Taveuni. Community production of both juvenile oysters and half-pearls supports income generation and employment in remote areas of Fiji, and provides training opportunities for women and youth.”

Civa Fiji Pearls is extremely happy to partner with USC and ACIAR on this project. A well organised Fishing Rights Owners group through the Vanua Trust of Laucala provides  good governance and accountability. Civa has worked with the Vanua Trust of Laucala for 3 years now and the relationship continues to strengthen.

All parties involved - Civa, the Trust, fishing rights owners, communities and individuals - are deeply committed to sustainable development for the long term.

As our projects list grows and more relationships develop we all endeavour to meet the goals of the 2017 World Ocean Conference, and be an example for others to follow in and beyond Fiji. And, of course, well beyond 2017 !!

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