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SMA a success in Nukuleka

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 14/03/2019

Despite a few challenges, the Special Management Areas – SMA has proven to be a very successful program, in which fishing in these areas are prohibited or limited to allow the marine organisms in the protected area to grow. The success of the SMA program is especially evident in Nukuleka in the Eastern District.

The SMA in Nukuleka was established in 2017 and in the short time from then until now the officer in charge – Suli Kaafi says they have witnessed the increasing number of fish present in the SMA, as well as the return of fish that had begun to disappear from their waters, due to overfishing.

The SMA prohibits all forms of fishing in the area along the coast of Nukuleka from the shore to about 15-200 meters out to sea. This also prohibits fishermen and locals of the village from fishing in the area and so Kaafi says they have already outlined areas in their waters that fishermen are allowed to fish in and they are content with this alternative.

Although local fishermen will have to travel further out, but Kaafi says the entire village understands the importance of the SMA program and are happy with this arrangement.

However, Kaafi says they still encounter fishermen from other villages illegally entering and fishing in their SMA. At the moment there are 2 cases in court where the Nukuleka SMA committee have charged fishermen for illegal fishing in the SMA, but Kaafi explained that there were other cases where they only gave warning to the fishermen entering the SMA and they did not need to end up in court.

Kaafi, along with the SMA committee of Nukuleka hopes that in time the fishermen would be aware of the SMA and respect it’s boundaries as this will benefit not only Nukuleka but surrounding villages as well.

In total there are 41 SMAs in Tonga, 9 in Tongatapu, each with different plans for their SMA according to each village’s needs and expectations from them. The Ministry of Fisheries is continuing to work together with other villages to set up more Special Management Areas around the country.

© Radio and Television Tonga News