Environmental Conservation

THEMATIC SECTION: Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM): designing the next generation (Part 1)

Using local ecological knowledge to identify shark river habitats in Fiji (South Pacific)

ERONI RASALATOa1, VICTOR MAGINNITYa2 and JUERG M. BRUNNSCHWEILERa3 c1

a1 University of the South Pacific, Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment, Marine Campus, Suva, Fiji

a2 Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, Marine Studies Department, Tauranga, New Zealand

a3 ETH Zurich, Raemistrasse 101, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland

SUMMARY

Local ecological knowledge (LEK) and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) have the potential to improve community-based coastal resource management (CBCRM) by providing information about the presence, behaviour and ecology of species. This paper explores the potential of LEK and TEK to identify shark river habitats in Fiji, learn how locals regard and use sharks, and capture ancestral legends and myths that shed light on relationships between these animals and local people. Interviews with representatives from 22 villages, communities and fishing settlements associated with seven riverine areas on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu confirmed the presence of sharks in estuaries and rivers on Fiji. Hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna spp.) and larger sharks were reported being close to the river mouths, whereas an unknown species of small size with a rounded snout was reported up to >30 km upriver. Local people consume shark meat as a source of protein, but sharks also have a rich background in ancestral stories and play an important part in Fijian myths and legends, resulting in the support of conservation measures by local villagers.

(Received August 23 2009)

(Accepted February 03 2010)

(Online publication May 13 2010)

Correspondence

c1 Correspondence: Dr Juerg Brunnschweiler e-mail: juerg@gluecklich.net