Charting a Sustainable Future for Tonga’s Marine Resources
The Vava’u Ocean Initiative (VOI) is a partnership between the Government of Tonga, the Waitt Institute, and the Vava’u Environmental Protection Association (VEPA). The goal of VOI is to support fisheries management and ocean planning in the island group of Vava’u and help communities meet both their marine conservation and economic development goals. SFG supports the Waitt Institute and VEPA by providing data-driven, scientific input to inform decision making, community education, and outreach.
The Kingdom of Tonga faces increasing marine resource management challenges as it transitions from a subsistence to cash-based economy. Rising demand for seafood and new linkages to international markets have increased pressure on Tonga’s marine resources, and some coastal fisheries have already been overexploited to the point of collapse. To help mitigate some of this pressure, the government of Tonga is engaging in a national marine spatial planning process to designate specific marine conservation areas, aquaculture areas, and special management areas. The goals of this planning effort are to enhance food security, stimulate economic development, and promote sustainable resource use. Special management areas are a key component of a broader, long-term strategy for Tonga to achieve environmental sustainability and economic stability, and their design allows communities to manage their own near-shore marine resources. Ten Tongan communities now have designated special management areas within their waters, but there is still more work to be done.
VOI is supporting Tonga’s national marine spatial planning effort and working to create four new special management areas in the northern island group of Vava’u. SFG is helping VOI integrate scientific research into the planning process and streamline decision-making by:
- Producing scientific guidelines for fisheries monitoring and management, and developing tools for an adaptive fisheries monitoring, assessment, and management framework for the special managed areas
- Providing scientific information for outreach and educational materials to help communities design their special managed areas
- Assessing the potential for aquaculture to reduce pressure on wild fish stocks
The Vava’u Ocean Initiative is a partnership between the Government of Tonga, the Waitt Institute, and the Vava’u Environmental Protection Association. SFG provides scientific support to all project partners.