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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Coups and fisheries

I just got back from a videoconference with our Suva office. Over one-third of SPC's staff are based in Fiji, and with a military coup brewing there is a lot to worry about, and plans to make. I won't bring any of that up here since things are moving fast and I don't want anything I say to have implications for any of our staff or trainees in Fiji. But also because this is a fishy, not a political, blog.

I just wanted to make one quick point: Apart from the obvious human impacts of any governmental overthrow, there are often indirect effects on marine resources resulting from the fact that fisheries are the "resource of last resort" in times of hardship. After the first two military coups in Fiji, in 1987, some definite "signals" emerged from the fisheries statistics.


Interestingly, the spikes in production in 1988, the year after the coups, was not in the food fisheries or on local markets, but in export fisheries - the main village cash-earners. Rural people had food, but the downturn in the economy hurt their ability to cover the few extra essentials that needed cash, and the quickest way of raising cash in the outer islands was to sell some marine products to exporters.

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