This is a pretty good day for us at cChange.
The 4FJ campaign, which we developed in support of the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries, was launched in 2014 to reduce fishing pressure on rapidly declining grouper fisheries in Fiji. These are A-grade fish that support the livelihoods and food needs for communities nationwide, not to mention are culturally important to all Fijians.
But to tackle that issue, first, over workshops and meetings, we worked with the Ministry of Fisheries, NGOs and scientists to understand that to catalyse support for improved management, you needed to communicate the problem in simple terms and empower people to make a difference. So we got them to stop overwhelming people with science and try it our way. As part of that approach, we developed a simple strategy: Ask people to take action right here, right now, to help revive these dwindling fisheries.
We focused our messaging on the need to let fish breed, something everyone understood intuitively. No fancy powerpoints needed. We just explained that these fish in particular are targeted as they gather in the thousands to breed and as fishing pressure has increased, too few are left to release their eggs and restock the reefs. And finally, we asked people to pledge not to eat, buy or sell them during their peak breeding months, June through September. Save them now, eat more later.
As part of our strategy, we also recruited champions from all walks of life to explain why action was needed. In their own words, they talked about why these fish mattered to income, to traditions, to culture. We engaged with traditional chiefs, church leaders, fishermen, political leaders, celebrity chefs, and sports stars, and the list goes on and on.
Now, 4 years later, after scores of pledge drives, tons media outreach, community visits, private sector engagement, and more than 15,000 public 4FJ pledges, and commitments from institutions and businesses, including two national supermarket chains, 4FJ is inarguably the most successful environmental campaign in Fiji to date. And today, buoyed by that success, the Ministry of Fisheries legally banned the harvesting and sale of these threatened grouper, called kawakawa and donu in Fiji, during the peak breeding months, June through September.
But the change won't stop there. Based on the high-level appeal of the campaign, which included scores of prominent Fijians championing it, including some of its world-famous rugby players, we have been able to forge a powerful coalition to help enforce the ban. We are now gearing up, with the Ministry of Fisheries, to train police and town council, which oversee the fish markets, to help enforce the ban. This is unprecedented and we fully expect the gains on kawakawa and donu management to translate into support for a sister campaign we have around minimum sizes, called Set Size.
Form the start, we focused on improving grouper as a way to create broader support for the host of issues facing sustainable inshore fisheries management.
And it worked. A survey we conducted in the Suva-Nausori Corridor found:
- 93 percent agree with legally banning fishing and sale during peak breeding months
- 90 percent more supportive of fishing rules and regulations
- 86 percent want to know more about what I can do to help
- 82 percent wondered what other fish are overfished
There is a lot more to the story and we hope you follow our cChange Facebook page and our 4FJ Facebook page to hear about the next chapters. But today, all of this is just to acknowledge our hard-working staff, past and present, that have from the very beginning bought into our innovative approach to a long-standing problem and made a very big difference.
Indeed, there is a lot more to the story and we hope you follow our cChange Facebook page and our 4FJ Facebook page to hear about the next chapters. But today, all of this is just to acknowledge our hard-working staff, past and present, that have from the very beginning bought into our innovative approach to a long-standing problem and made a very big difference.
Vinaka vakalevu cChange Fiji.
And we want to acknowledge all our partners, first of all the Ministry of Fisheries, who leads this campaign, but also the Methodist Church of Fiji, the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs, the Fiji Locally-Managed Marine Area Network and all its partners, including both the community representatives and the NGOs.
We also need to thank the many volunteers that helped with the pledge drives, champion recruitment and simply spreading the message to their family and friends.
We also want to thank the Fiji media for their sustained engagement in bringing this important issue to the people.
And of course, we want to thank all the people who came out to support this campaign, publicly and privately. In particular, we must thank the more than 15,000 people that wrote their names on that funny little fish board and committed to spreading the word to their networks. You took us over the try line, one talanoa at a time. Vinaka vakalevu.
Indeed, it's a good day for cChange. But it's a great day for Fiji.