Fiji currently has 48 terrestrial protected areas covering 488km²or 2.7% of the nation’s land area. Eight Nature Reserves were established under Forestry Legislation in the 1950-60s- all of these remain but they have never received any formal conservation management. Only three of these have ecological significance- Ravilevu, Tomanivivi and Savura. The Ravilevu Nature Reserve and the Tomaniivi Nature Reserve are currently under advanced plans for de-reservation and a return to native land tenure.
In 1972, a UNDP/World Bank Tourism study recommended eight protected forest areas. Eight years later the National Trust of Fiji and WWF produced a landmark report detailing a proposed system of national parks and reserves along with information on how to establish, develop and mange them. A total of 88 terrestrial and marine sites were identified in seven planning regions. The report promoted ‘eco-development’ for Fiji and provided a Draft Act for the establishment of National parks and reserves. None of the recommendations have ever been fully implemented.
In 1988, the I-Taukei Lands Trust Board (ILTB) supported the first serious ecosystem-based study for forest conservation areas, nominating 15 sites for protection. Three of these sites have been set aside from logging, including Sovi Basin, but management of the other sites is unchanged. Four years after this study, the 1992 State of Environment Report noted that although neighboring Pacific nations had internationally recognized protected areas, Fiji had one. The associated National Environment Strategy (NES) drew up a list of 140 Sites of National Significance, proposing that a formal legislative process be enacted to give them greater protection from destructive development. In the 15 years since the NES, several forest areas have been reserved either through formal leasing arrangements with landowners or through informal agreements. Notable among, these are Waisali, established through a formal lease in 1996; and the ‘ Heritage Parks’ of Bouma and Acaba, the former established as a result of an MOU between the landowners, ILTB, DOF and the New Zealand Government.
Significantly, the 20,000-hectare Sovi Basin is now well on the way to reserve status with an associated trust fund of landowners. Equally significant has been the establishment of over 200 locally managed marine areas. The Navua Gorge Conservation Area is a privately managed protected area of a site of National Significance, leased by the ILTB on behalf of the landowners. It was subsequently nominated and listed as Fiji’s first Ramsar site, as a wetland of international significance.