Stakeholders discuss the proposed designation of Nasoata Island as Fiji’s second Ramsar Site

IUCN Oceania organized a stakeholder planning meeting in February 2014 in the Fiji Islands to discuss the proposed designation of the Nasoata mangrove island as Fiji’s second Ramsar Site. The Ramsar Secretariat was represented by Vainuupo Jungblut, the Ramsar Officer for Oceania.

Vainuupo Jungblut accompanied IUCN Oceania officers on a consultation visit to the Nakorovou village, in the Rewa river delta, where the traditional landowners of the Nasoata mangrove island are based. During the visit, he reiterated Ramsar’s commitment to support the nomination of the island.

The stakeholder planning meeting for designating Nasoata Island as a Ramsar Site was held at the IUCN offices in Suva. Participants included representatives from the Department of Environment (the Ramsar Administrative Authority in Fiji), University of the South Pacific, Ministry of Lands, iTaukei Land Trust Board, IUCN Oceania and the landowners of Nasoata Island. At the meeting, Vainuupo Jungblut outlined the goals of the Ramsar Convention and the benefits of designating priority wetlands as Ramsar Sites. Highlights of the meeting were the presentation on the biodiversity profile of the island by Professor Randy Thaman (USP), progress with the development of the co-management plan for the island led by IUCN Oceania and group work to map out issues to include in the co-management plan. The group work focused on three themes: stakeholder engagement, Ramsar Site nomination process and biodiversity profile.

Stakeholder meeting participants. Photo copyright: IUCN Fiji

Overall, the meeting resulted in greater understanding and appreciation of the value of Nasoata Island and why it should be listed as a Ramsar Site. There was also good discussion and awareness raised on the government’s internal process for establishing a protected area as well as on the Convention’s requirements for listing a new Site.

The first draft of the co-management plan for Nasoata Island is expected to be completed by end March/early April, when it will be submitted to the community for feedback before being finalized. Nasoata Island is expected to be listed as a Wetland of International Importance before the end of 2014. The community was happy to see continued interest and follow up after the initial meeting and visit to Nasoata Island in 2012.

Nasoata Island, expected to be listed as a Wetland of International Importance before the end of 2014. Photo copyright: Randy Thaman

During his visit to Fiji, Vainuupo Jungblut met with the Department of Environment to follow up on national Ramsar implementation issues. These include the government-funded development of the management plan for Fiji’s first Ramsar Site, the Upper Navua Conservation Area, and the plan for tracking Ramsar implementation progress. The meeting resulted in the completion of a draft Ramsar implementation plan including timelines and responsibilities. The draft plan is currently being finalised internally. Arrangements for the development of the management plan for the Upper Navua Ramsar Site were confirmed. The management plan will be funded by the Fiji Government and the terms of reference have been submitted for sign off to the Environment minister before being advertised. The development of the plan is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2014 and is expected to be completed within six months. Fiji's needs for Ramsar implementation were discussed and confirmed (support to COP12 national report, wetland inventory and legislation review). The designation of Lake Tagimoucia was discussed and community consultations are expected to take place during the first quarter of 2014.

During a meeting with the Water and Wetlands Programme Coordinator at the IUCN Oceania Regional Office, Vainuupo Jungblut discussed joint collaboration for 2014. It was agreed that a focus on mangrove activities in Ramsar Sites is needed, particularly in Micronesia (Marshall Islands). The process, arrangements and timeline for the development of the Nasoata mangrove island co-management plan, on which IUCN is taking the lead, were verified and confirmed.

The Upper Navua Conservation Area, Fiji's first Ramsar Site. Photo copyright: Vainuupo Jungblut

Vainuupo Jungblut also met with WWF South Pacific for an update on the progress of the proposed designation of the Great Sea Reef (GSR). WWF is completing a draft Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS) and Ramsar confirmed its support to the designation process. The development of the management plan for the GSR is expected to take 15 months.

During a meeting with officials from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Vainuupo Jungblut discussed opportunities for future cooperation on a regional project on wetlands.

Report by Vainuupo Jungblut, the Ramsar Officer for Oceania

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