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Coastal villagers to benefit from undersea coral farms

FIJI - From now on, tourists arriving in Suva are expected to be among the first people to buy Fijis latest eco-friendly product farmed coral.

As part of a special partnership between a local NGO and rural coastal communities, a pilot sale of farmed corals would be held at the Suva Harbour seawall (opposite the handicraft centre) throughout the day.

The corals, grown by villagers of Motoriki in the Lomaiviti Group, are the product of an ongoing corals for conservation initiative co-ordinated by Partners in Community Development Fiji (PCDF).

An official launch of the sale will be held at the Suva Civic Centre at 10am with Minister for the Environment Bernadette Ganilau as chief guest.

Each coral on sale bears a special seal of approval from the Environment ministry approving sale of the coral and allowing the coral to be taken out of the country.

Austin Bowden-Kerby, chief scientist with Counterpart International, has been working with PCDF on the coral initiative since 1999.

Mr Bowden-Kerby said it was important to understand the sale of farmed corals did not mean people could chip bits off the reef and sell it to tourists on the roadside.

These corals are all specially farmed and have been grown by communities who have extensive marine management plans, said Mr Bowden-Kerby.

Every community that has approval to grow farmed corals for sale is carrying out best practices in coral reef conservation.

This includes setting aside about 25 per cent of all reefs in protected areas and stopping destructive fishing and boating practices.

Mr Bowden-Kerby said it would be easy for people to identify which of the corals had been farmed because farmed coral was grown on small button-shaped concrete discs.

Source: The Fiji Times Online