Harnessing innovation and community to protect Fiji’s coral reefs

By Climate Champions | November 13, 2023

In Fiji, the Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR) is spearheading a new initiative that combines environmental stewardship with economic pragmatism. By investing in community-centric conservation efforts, the GFCR is not only enhancing the resilience of coral reefs but also building sustainable local enterprises.

The GFCR’s program in Fiji covers a suite of interventions, each designed to address specific threats to the marine ecosystem. At the forefront is the establishment of a non-synthetic fertiliser factory, which aims to mitigate the harmful effects of chemical fertilisers on coral reefs. This initiative is particularly significant for the Great Sea Reef, targeted via the Dreketi river system. By providing a more affordable and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical fertilisers, the GFCR is enabling a shift towards sustainable agricultural practices within Fiji’s sugarcane sector.

In parallel, the GFCR is tackling the issue of waste management. The introduction of a modern landfill and recycling facility aims to reduce the leaching of waste into coastal waters, a problem exacerbated by existing dumpsites. This effort is complemented by a country-wide dumpsite rehabilitation project, which promises to transform the landscape of waste management in Fiji.

The program also includes a private sector waste management solution that encompasses modern landfill and materials recycling facilities. This solution is poised to make a significant impact on the reduction of waste production and its detrimental effects on coastal ecosystems.

Furthermore, the GFCR is investing in sustainable aquaculture ventures, such as the land-based red tilapia production, which provides a sustainable source of fish protein and supports marine conservation efforts. This initiative is particularly innovative, as it incorporates land- and sea-based coral gene banking, contributing to the long-term health of coral ecosystems.

The GFCR’s approach is not limited to environmental benefits; it also has a profound socio-economic impact. By creating sustainable business models, such as the regenerative mariculture initiative and supporting reef-positive enterprises through a Technical Assistance Facility, the GFCR is generating economic opportunities for local communities. These initiatives are designed to alleviate pressure on wild fish stocks, enhance food security, and promote sustainable use of marine resources.

The program’s reach extends to a network of Locally Marine Managed Areas (LMMA), where improved management and enforcement are generating revenue and supporting the livelihoods of island communities. These communities derive a significant portion of their dietary protein from the ocean, and the LMMAs play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the marine ecosystems upon which they depend.

The GFCR’s efforts in Fiji are a testament to the power of integrated conservation and development strategies. By addressing the interconnected challenges of reef degradation, waste management, and unsustainable fishing practices, the GFCR is not only protecting Fiji’s coral reefs but also paving the way for a sustainable blue economy. The program’s success in leveraging public and private funding to support reef-positive projects offers a model that can be replicated in other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) facing similar environmental challenges.

Asia-Pacific Climate Week takes place from 13-17 November 2023, drawing stakeholders, experts, and policymakers from across the region to showcase solutions and innovations, and to foster increased cooperation across borders and sectors in addressing pressing climate challenges. Find out more.