Save Savuavu Bay From Deforestation and Dredging
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Savusavu Town Council and Ministry of Environment are responsible for approving 10 hectares of mangrove destruction and seabed dredging on Nawi Island in Savusavu. This action threatens local livelihoods, safety, ecology, and the environment which we cannot stand for.
First, as a town, Savusavu depends on ecotourists for its economic survival. Savusavu is advertised as the hidden paradise and the heart Fiji, brimming with amazing natural beauty and wildlife. The untouched splendor of the ocean draws divers and snorkelers from around the world to Savusavu shores. Without this distinction, Savusavu would not be a unique and sought after destination in Fiji.
From the damage that has already been done, we are witnessing fuel spills and dead marine life. Local businesses and residents depend on ecotourism to stay afloat. One of the most unique features of the Savusavu diving industry, that draws people globally, is the presence of its residential school of scalloped hammerheads which depend on mangroves as potential nursery grounds. Cisneros-Montemayor et al. (2013) found that, at the time of publication, the ecotourism industry based on shark watching, with 590,000 yearly participants, was conservatively earning USD 314 million per year and supporting approximately 10,000 jobs. They also estimated that by the year 2033, the number of ecotourists interested in shark watching would more than double, increasing the shark tourism market to USD 780 million per year. Ecotourism is one of the world's fastest growing industries, throwing Savusavu's standing and future potential as a leading ecotourism destination is fiscally irresponsible and threatens the livelihoods of local people.
Secondly, the marine life that Savusavu relies on to draw in ecotourists and for food depends on the seabed and mangrove habitats. Mangrove forests are home to fish, crabs, shrimp, clams, and other marine life. These animals are a vital source for fisheries in coastal communities. A study showed that there are 25 times the amount of fish of certain species on reefs close to mangrove areas in comparison to where mangroves have been cut down. Mangrove habitats provide marine life with a rich source of food while also offering refuge from predation. Mangroves provide a vital role for marine life that local fisheries and tourism rely on.
Third, accepting that the threat we face from climate change is serious and continuously growing, we cannot in good faith accept the destruction of carbon-rich mangrove forests. Mangroves hold more carbon per unit area than any other type of forest and have double the living biomass of tropical forests. Additionally, 10% of the carbon they produce also gets stored away in the soil, providing a secondary carbon sink. However, globally mangroves are destroyed faster than any other type of forest. Fiji's involvement in sustainability initiatives (such as REDD+) and COP 23 indicate the desire to become an environmentally forward thinking nation however, these actions represent steps in the opposite direction.
Fourth, mangroves provide many ecosystem services that Savusavu, and moreover Fiji, would be lost without. Mangroves protect against storms, flooding, coastal erosion and strong waves. In the wake of Hurricane Winston, removing natural lines of defence is extremely irresponsible. In coastal areas where mangroves have been cleared, damage from hurricanes is much more severe. Additionally, mangrove forests protect coral reefs and seagrass habitats from being smothered and killed from land run off during heavy rains by filtering out sediments. Through this process they maintain water quality.
Further, there is an overwhelming odour lingering in the air around Savusavu from the decaying mangrove and the rotting marine life, due to the present destruction. This smell will linger for months or years. That smell is the result of decomposition releasing carbon into the atmosphere, increasing Fiji's environmental impact. Soil in areas of mangrove removal show immediate and long-term negative impacts destroying its productivity. Those impacts included sediments lacking oxygen, black in colour and smelling sulphur, detrimentally changing the ecosystem characteristics.
Join us in urging the Fijian Government to stop further destruction now! To save the people and wildlife of Savusavu as well as uphold Fiji's climate change initiative!
#cop23 #saveSavusavuBay #Fijime #saveNawiIsland #unitedNations #fijianGovernment #climatechangeaction
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