Great Sea Reef
The Great Sea Reef (GSR), locally known as the “Cakaulevu” is the southern hemisphere’s third longest continuous barrier reef system. Running over 200km in length from the northern most tip of the island of Vanua Levu to the outer most barrier reefs and the near-shore fringing reefs of the Yasawa Islands, the GSR is home to a high value coral reef biodiversity area. Four of the six major rivers of the country drain into the GSR. Two of the major, deltas, mangrove systems and much of the sea grasses important for turtles and fish nursery grounds.
The reef has been part of the Fijian lifestyle for centuries, providing sustenance, protection and supports a diverse range of industries from fishing to tourism being the highest revenue earner for the past decade. The GSR is a test of the fine balance between development and resource management for Fiji.
The GSR faces numerous unprecedented challenges of the modern times. Rapid population growth, urban expansion, increasing demand for natural resources, frequent intense cyclones, tidal waves, flooding and landslides, ineffective policies and weak legislations are placing an enormous deal of pressure on this fragile ecosystem.
The initial proposal sought to:
1. Define the management approaches to manage the collective GSR system possibly using a jurisdictional redd+ / landscape approach, climate change adaptation and landscape restoration approach.
2. Utilise available literature and working with relevant Government and existing frameworks to build land use policies and define implementation frameworks
3. Undertake a comprehensive carbon measuring and offset calculations for targeted sites within the four provinces covering the GSR.
4. Consult with national stakeholders to develop appropriate implementation benefiting industry partners, local communities and other partners.
5. Create one of the world’s first adaptation and resilience programmes that brings together the land, people and ocean.
6. Ensure food security, whilst ensuring best practice fisheries and land management.
7. Build a bottom up approach through community engagement and participation whilst developing requisite land use and fisheries management policies.
A comprehensive solution
In response to this existential challenge, Fiji has placed a high premium on saving and restoring Cakaulevu. The government has supported communities to designate a number of marine protected areas (MPAs) and set aside other areas for continued fishing and economic use. This is now replenishing some fish stock and slowing the reef’s degradation, however Fijian officials have long recognised that more comprehensive and concerted action is needed.
In 2017, WWF-Pacific and the WWF Landscape Finance Lab launched, with various Fijian government ministries and other partners, the Great Sea Reef Resilience Programme, which aims to ensure that the Great Sea Reef and coastal ecosystems are healthy and resilient to a changing climate. To do so, the programme is focusing on:
- holistic land and marine use planning, ecosystems management and climate buffering;
- developing and nurturing existing financial systems for sustainable natural regenerative production and practices with market outcomes; and
- designing and strengthening systems for removal of primary wastes and pollution.
A new approach to investing in landscapes
To help support Fiji’s GSR Resilience Programme, the Lab has facilitated the much-needed flow of finance into the many components of the plan and, above all, to support green and blue businesses in Fiji.
The first key step in the Lab’s work was to perform a comprehensive analysis of the multiple sectors deemed to be regenerative and from there developed the financial tools to strengthen and assist private sector enterprises that can compliment the GSR programme.
The eventual result of this work was the formation of Matanataki, a dedicated financial partnership which sources investable businesses and attracts international investors, including private investors and international development institutions. Matanataki is a partnership between the Lab, The Earth Care Agency, Ikigai and Ennovent, a private company that specialises in under-served markets.