Marine Protected Areas in Fiji: a critical assessment of ‘Community Fisheries Management and Development Plans’ as a mechanism for formalising customary MPAs, in particular LMMAs
Fiji's National Government has committed to using Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to protect its marine environment. As Fiji is in the process of reforming its marine law, now is an opportune time to develop statutory mechanisms for establishing and regulating MPAs. This article considers the regulation of MPAs in Fiji's coastal waters—where the intersection of statutory and customary law poses particular challenges. ‘Customary MPAs’ already exist in Fiji's coastal environments, taking the form of tabu areas and ‘Locally Managed Marine Areas’ (LMMAs). Both of these are important mechanisms that any new statutory framework should incorporate and strengthen. In 2010, the draft Inshore Fisheries Decree (draft Inshore Decree) was prepared. Although the draft Inshore Decree appears to have stalled, it may yet be progressed to a final bill. Alternatively, some of the measures in it may be incorporated into another law. This article assesses one mechanism in the draft Inshore Decree that could be used to formalize customary MPAs—Community Fisheries Management and Development Plans (CFMDPs). It finds that CFMDPs demonstrate a number of strengths, in particular by supporting legal recognition of existing marine management measures. However, there are also weaknesses. Nevertheless, with refinement CFMDPs may be a useful tool for regulating Fiji's coastal MPAs.