June 10 2020: A team of ten officials from the Research Unit of Coastal Fisheries Division had returned from Maiana Island after conducting surveys on marine resources (finfish and invertebrate) including creel survey targeting fishermen on the island and to develop the Island Spatial planning from 27th April till 11th May 2020.
The main purpose of this visit was to reassess the status of marine resources after a survey conducted back in 2018. This survey will support the existing management plans that were developed by communities for conserving and sustaining food security from their marine resources and propose for new bye-laws which could conserve species which are on the decline. The team also aims to produce the Island resource map with an objective to identify sites with their significant features.
After the surveys, the team observed that damselfish (non-food) and surgeonfish (food – utun te riba) were common finfish species found at Maiana. However, there were also important finfish food found abundantly on Maiana including Families of Snappers (utun te okaoka/ika ni bong), Groupers (utun te kuau), Parrot fish (utun te ikamawa), etc. Giant clams and spider conch two most important food sources were observed and found at the back and outer reef of Maiana but after the completion of the full technical report, it would be confirmed whether these resources have either a healthy status or otherwise.
Seagrass and coral reef were also examined during the trip. Aranteiti Tekiau (Senior Fisheries Assistant) said that there is no sign of coral bleaching, however there are some minor coral stressing indicators including high turbidity, expulsion of corals to sunlight during low tide contributing to some coral bleaching. The aftermath observation also found that seagrass meadow is not very healthy which was supported by Toaea Beiatouea who is a Senior Fisheries Assistant and had worked at Maiana for more than 10 years ago. He stated how seagrass used to cover the whole island on the lagoon side, which is different nowadays. Seagrass meadow is hardly found in villages as stated by an elder from Buota that seagrass meadow is now replaced by sand and mud. Also, after the banning of sea cucumber exportation by the Kiribati Government, some sea cucumbers such as prickly redfish (te buraerae), brown sandfish (te kanimnim), and lolly fish (ten tabaneabne) are now able to replenish their population.
The team had managed to gather information from fishermen through a creel survey to see how fishing activities are conducted and what types of fishing equipment have been used. Due to their island by-laws and the ban of splashing in 2019, the number of bone fishes has increased and could be seen in areas close to the shore. The GIS-Officer (Ueakeia Tofiga) funded under LDCF managed to produce a resource map of Maiana detailing important sites such as; fishing ground for finfish and invertebrates, fish spawning area and important resources’ sites on land.
The trip was financially made possible by the Food Security Project, commonly known as the LDCF-1 which is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the UNDP and managed by the Environment and Conservation Division (ECD) under the MELAD.