Fiji becomes the 152nd Party to Ramsar
The Secretariat is extremely pleased to welcome the Pacific state of Fiji to the Ramsar community. The instrument of accession to the Convention on Wetlands, as amended in 1982 and 1987, was received by the Director-General of UNESCO on 11 April, and thus the treaty comes into force for Fiji on 11 August 2006. The accession process has been facilitated over several years by a number of the Convention's partner organizations - BirdLife International, Wetlands International - Oceania, and WWF South Pacific - with the benefit of grants from the Wetlands International / Netherlands DGIS Partners for Wetlands Programme and the Ramsar SGF.
The new Party has named the "Upper Navua Conservation Area" (615 hectares, 18°07'S 177°55'E) as its first Wetlands of International Importance. The upper Navua River cuts a narrow gorge in the central highlands of Viti Levu, the main island - the gorge itself is some 75 meters deep and 5 to 25 meters wide and hosts important fauna and flora, including an abundance of the disappearing endemic sago palm Metroxylon vitiense. The waters of the site contain breeding populations of at least two endemic freshwater fish species (Redigibius leveri and Schismatogobius chrysonotus), and in the forests surrounding the gorge there are 17 endemic species of birds. Due to its relative inaccessibility, the site is in a nearly undisturbed state, but increased logging in the area poses a potential threat. The land is owned by traditional families and managed on their behalf by the Native Land Trust Board, and is presently leased to Rivers Fiji Ltd, an ecotourism and rafting venture which is designing training and education programmes, among other efforts, in order to develop sustainable ecotourism further. Villagers' centuries-old traditional knowledge of the river and its systems is seen as the foundation for the long-term preservation and sustainable use of the river and near-river resources.
Wetlands International - Oceania, Mainstream Environmental, and Rivers Fiji Ltd provided valuable assistance to the government in compiling data for this site designation.