But for all its wonder, the contemporary reality of the French Polynesian environment and economic progress is impeded. This is especially the case in the remote archipelagos where economies generally consist of monoculture agriculture (Copra production), small scale tourism and fish exports. The result is no jobs and restricted educational opportunities and decreasing populations as they young look elsewhere for economic opportunities.
The islanders main form of income is generated from Copra production. There are very few jobs available, most families rely on subsistence fishing for there food security and education for children on the island ceases at 10 years of age. To continue to be educated the children must travel to other island communities and to seek employment they must travel to Papeete, the capital or even further afield to France. The result is a population that has declined from 2000 to 450 with little prospect of economic stability or growth and a declining lagoon fishery being heavily relied on for food and sustenance.
In 2015 The Island Initiative instigated the Anaa Atoll Project with the hope of creating a small scale tourism venture on the island to create economic opportunity, resource management of the lagoon fishery and educational opportunities. The challenge for this project was to understand the subsistence lagoon fishery and it’s importance to the Anaa community and then help to educate the community on how to manage this for the future.
The Island Initiative identified the potential for Anaa atoll to create a sustainable ecotourism venture around fly fishing for various sports fish, including Kiokio (bonefish), that inhabit the Anaa lagoon.
Fly fishing attracts high value tourists who fish on a catch and release basis. Effectively bringing in much needed income to the local community without over harvesting of the local fish population.
RAHUI – In the Tuamotu, Rahui means:
to prohibit, interdict, forbid taking as the food of certain lands. It is a culturally significant act implemented to protect important resources as the food of certain lands.
In August 2018 the local community voted to impose a Rahui (temporary closed season) during the Kiokio spawning migration which was approved by the President of French Polynesia. This was a massive recognition by the community of the importance to protect these fish during their spawning migrations. This is the first Rahui ever implemented for Kiokio.
In response the community established a Marine Educational Area (MEA) in the critical migratory corridor for bonefish and local school children are actively studying the life history and management of this species and others in the MEA.
View sustainable fishing infographic, click to enlarge.
1. In APRIL and MAY let the fish spawn; during these 6 nights the bonefish are carrying most of their eggs.
The majority of the female bonefish reproduce during these two months of the year. By letting the fish migrate safely to the ocean during this time, we increase substantially the number of eggs released.
2. Bonefish larger than 60cm are female and at least seven years old. These females carry many more eggs than the smaller and medium size fish. The survival of these large females is essential to repopulate the lagoon and maintain a healthy stock for many generations.
Two years of research by The Island Initiative shows that these two actions will vastly improve the reproduction rates of bonefish, enabling higher numbers of young fish to return to the lagoon each year and grow into adults.