Kia Island is the main fishing community on the Great Sea Reef, an internationally significant marine biodiversity hotspot. Over 80% of the island relies on fishing as their primary source of income; however increasing fishing pressure is damaging the marine ecosystem and resulting in lower catch, which has serious implications for the community’s livelihoods. Through our Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) Future Conservationist project, we have worked to establish the Reef Rangers, an 80 person-strong youth group developed to empower and educate the community about the threats facing their natural resources. As the future resource users, the youth have the greatest potential to change attitudes and behavior of the Kian community in managing their marine environment effectively.
Earlier this year we received assistance from the Kate Stokes Memorial Award to expand the Reef Rangers network and the local Conservation Ambassadors of Kia Island to manage and run the Reef Rangers programme with minimal support from our project team. We have provided hands on training and continued assessment for at least 10 Conservation Ambassadors. We were able to create a toolbox and consolidate the most successful Reef Rangers activities in a lesson plan that was used in our outreach activities on mainland Vanua Levu and surrounding island communities. With our Conservation Ambassadors leading the charge, we visited 6 schools on the mainland, exceeding our initial target of 2 schools, reaching over 820 students and teachers with our environment messages about the conservation of the globally significant Great Sea Reef.
The culmination of the successful year we had with the Reef Rangers and Conservation Ambassadors was celebrated at the annual Girl Guides jamboree, where we promoted environmental education and raised awareness to over 1000 participants and officials from all over Fiji.