Like many island communities, the village of ‘Atata has seen the rapid depletion of its inshore fishery in recent years. The causes? Overfishing, erosion, and climate change.
Just offshore from the village is the ‘Atata Special Management Area (SMA). It has a total area of about 1,965 acres and includes a 440-acre no-take fish reserve. Legally, only the people of ‘Atata and others approved by the ‘Atata SMA committee may fish there, but the rules have not been well enforced.
The ‘Atata community has pledged to work closely with Tonga’s Ministry of Fisheries to prosecute poachers. Community members also want to explore possible sources of income, including handicrafts and weaving, as alternatives to fishing.
A Seacology grant will fund rebuilding the village’s community center, which was destroyed by a cyclone. It will be used for many purposes, including community meetings, women’s weaving and other development activities, and a preschool. Community members will rebuild the structure and add a bathroom. They will also install tanks and guttering to help ensure a reliable supply of fresh water for the village.
This project is similar to successful Seacology efforts in other Tongan villages where SMAs were not being enforced. Our NGO partner, the Tonga Community Development Trust, promoted awareness of the value of the marine resources. As a result, community members now know more about local natural resources and feel a greater sense of pride, ownership, and responsibility.