At the port of Lautoka, Fiji's largest port for handling bulk cargo, fishermen Lee and Savo explained how they had learnt from their forefathers how to make a living from the ocean. They expressed worries that due to climate change, fish patterns have become unpredictable, threatening their livelihoods and future prospects of their children. Fishing is not just an income generating occupation for these families, but a way of life, which they said was being adversely impacted by climate-induced disasters.
Lautoka port caters for local small-scale fishing vessels engaged in nearshore fishing up to 12 nautical miles. The regional office of the Ministry of Fisheries located there includes a storage area for confiscated items from fishing vessels, including illegal fishing gear such as wrong-sized nets, non-compliant engines, and spears. The fisheries management team described their efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and demonstrated how they undertake stock assessments to ensure that fishing remains sustainable. This includes diving suits and oxygen tanks to assess stocks underwater. The team also routinely checks landed catch and relies on other traditional methods and reference points to assess the stocks.
The catch for the day included trevally, barracuda, wahoo, rock cod and unicorn fish, indicating the abundance and variety of nearshore fish stocks. The fish market near the landing site is where fishermen give their catch to their wives to sell to local customers.
The increased frequency and intensity of cyclones in Fiji have impacted the country's ability to fully benefit from the blue economy. Every year, Fiji expects at least two Category 5 cyclones, which entail costly rebuilding efforts. The non-governmental organization "Rise Beyond the Reef" helps women from vulnerable communities to safeguard traditional knowledge and skills.
Participating women, many in coastal villages, create high value, ecologically sustainable products such as handbags and sarongs to sell to international markets via e-commerce and thus supplement their family's earnings. Participating women have gained more control over household resources. There has also been a decrease in gender-based violence and an increase in women's decision-making power in the community.