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By Saras Sharma and Jacqueline Nalomaca-Seru
Ever since I was young, I have always had a love for the sea. I think it’s because I was near it or in it most of the time.
Jacqueline Nalomaca-Seru is from the coastal village of Tawake in Cakaudrove Province with maternal links to Tailevu Province in Fiji. Her mother’s family owned a farm that was bordered by the ocean, and this meant holidays and weekends were spent either swimming, hunting for crabs or fishing. Both Jacqueline’s grandfathers were very experienced fishermen and their love for the ocean rubbed off on her and kindled her love, interest and determination to protect and conserve the ocean and its resources in whatever little way possible.
What do you currently do at the Ministry of Fisheries?
Currently, I am a Compliance Officer with the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries, Inshore Fisheries Management Division (IFMD). This role has given me the opportunity to educate and advocate for the protection and conservation of our ocean and its resources through the use of the Fisheries Act and related legislations. Once this was a male-dominated field but now more women are interested in pursuing this career and are able to work alongside a wide range of enforcement agencies to reinforce the message. I enjoy the opportunity to meet a diverse groups of people who share different views and perceptions and have a chance to share knowledge and experiences. Explaining to communities and seeing changes in behaviour over time has been rewarding.
As a female Compliance Officer, it is never easy to confiscate prohibited and undersized fish from vendors from the various communities around Fiji who are trying to put food on their tables. However, it is work that must be done to ensure that we continue to have these very resources available to us now. If I don’t do my part now to ensure the sustainable use and management of fisheries resources, then there might not be any fish left to feed and support current generations, let alone the ones to come in the future.
What are some of your key achievements?
I always knew that I wanted to work in an ocean-related field so I studied Marine Studies at the University of the South Pacific, so that I could achieve my main goal of doing my part to conserve the ocean that I love. After graduation, I was given the opportunity to be part of the research team with the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries serving as a project officer for the Biodiversity Enrichment Project. This role was very exciting and memorable as I was given the opportunity to visit many villages, schools and events that allowed me to advocate for the protection and conservation of the ocean and its resources. As part of the project, I was also able to be part of giant clam reseeding, and coral and mangrove planting initiatives. Later I was given the chance to be part of the Ridge to Reef Project funded by the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Programme, in partnership with the Ministry of Environment. This project gave me the opportunity to advocate for the need to sustainably use our land and its resources because they greatly impact what goes on in the ocean and what happens to the resources.
What are some of your key challenges?
There is a mindset that the sea is an endless source of marine life. Getting people to accept the need to protect and sustain our marine resources, especially those that we depend greatly on for food. Moreover, getting us to understand the need for fisheries legislation to ensure that we are able to sustainably use our marine resources. A challenge has been the different mixed messages shared on the ground with communities, which has led to them not being properly informed of the current acts and legislations in place. The increasing number of confiscations of illegal resources coming to light is both sad and painful as they represent wasted resources, and shortterm thinking on the part of resources owners.
Who are some of your role models?
I have a few role models that have nurtured my love for the ocean and its resources and inspired me to become a more vocal advocate for the sustainable management and protection of the ocean and its resources. My grandfathers have played a huge role in nurturing my love for the ocean. During holidays and trips to the village or farm I would spend a lot of time by the ocean. I grew fascinated with all the wonderfully weird creatures I would happen upon during those trips.
From my work, my roles models include Mr Aisake Batibasaga (previous Director for Fisheries), Mrs Margaret Vakalalabure (previous Senior Fisheries Officer for the Ministry of Fisheries Research Division), Mrs Sharma Gounder (new head of the IFMD) and Mr Richard Veeran (previous head of IFMD). These people have imparted to me a great wealth of knowledge on the ocean in their own respective fields, and this has enabled me to be a more confident advocate for the sustainable management and protection of the ocean and its resources.
My advice to the world
Our ocean provides us with numerous resources that ensure our survival as a people and a nation. Therefore, we must take our role as its guardians very seriously to ensure the ocean and its resources are sustainably used, managed and protected so that we can continue to benefit from them and enjoy all that we are enjoying today. It is not only about saving the resources for future generations, but also about protecting and sustainably using it for the current generation. If we don’t look after it well, we will all experience their loss.
Women in Fisheries #35
For more information, please contact Toky Rasoloarimanana, Communications Officer, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division, Pacific Community (SPC) | [email protected]