When I sent the original email to Rick enquiring about obtaining one of these, I thought I would have to send him multiple emails. Apparently, Rick is bit of push over because I received one in less than week of the email. As an exrucker myself (second and scrumhalf), I was obsessed with these jerseys from Rick’s initial post. What better than a rugby jersey with sea turtle on it that represents the commitment of locals, rugby players, WWF, and the Coral Reef Alliance to conserve/protect a marine corridor in Fiji. I have been wearing mine with pride and maybe someday I will take it off to wash it. Forget it, it’s a rugby jersey it supposed to smell.
Between the islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu in Fiji lies the island of Namena. Here, the villagers of the Jubulau District on Vanua Levu on the fishing rights to the Namena barrier reef. Through the 80’s and 90’s commercial fishing posed a threat to not only the biodiversity of the region (1,000 invertebrates, 400 corals, and 445 marine plants) but the livelihood of Kubulau residents. Jean-Michel Coustea commented “Having explored the oceans for most of my life, I have had the luxury of seeing many spectacular coral reefs. Every time I dive Namena’s reef systems, I see something new. This is certainly one of the most beautiful and diverse reefs I have ever experienced.” In 1997, Kubulau chiefs set a total ban on fishing, creating the Namena Marine Protected Area. This along with other MPAs in the area create a conservation corridor, important for the migration of many marine mammals.
The Coral Reef Alliance has spent the last three years work to further develop this marine conservation corridor. Lately, the threat on this area has been poaching, a lack of funding for enforcement, and lack of connection among young men to the MPA. As Rick notes
Since rugby is such a popular sport in Fiji, one of our project partners, WWF, succeeded in organizing the Great Sea Reef Tournament as a way of generating additional funds to conduct fish warden trainings. Rugby is certainly played in the villages where we work and some of the local teams are quite good. But our Fiji field staff reported that some of the Kubulau teams were playing in torn shirts. Some didn’t even have shoes. Thanks to a CORAL microgrant, the Kubulau District rugby teams are now proudly outfitted in spanking new rugby shirts, shorts, socks, and shoes. The shirts bear the logos of the Kubulau District Management Resource Committee, and the Namena Marine Reserve. Oh, and a small Coral Reef Alliance logo too (Hey, it works for NASCAR.) Our hope is to instill a sense of community pride in the young men from the village and connect that pride to community-based conservation taking place in the MPA.
What I love about CORAL is that they believe in a bottom-up with local-based initiatives. Head on over a make a donation, even if it is small.