Nautilus

A Fijian Village Adapts Tradition to Try to Save Its Ailing Reefs

The day that conservation biologist Joshua Drew, his two students, and I arrive in the Fijian village of Nagigi, the wind is blowing so hard that the coconut palms are bent sideways. “Trade winds,” we are told. And, “El Nino.” The villagers here also know that climate change is affecting the weather, but their more immediate problem, shared across the Pacific—and, indeed, the world—is an ocean ecosystem sorely depleted by overfishing.

Nagigi is a village of about 240 people living in tin-roofed wooden homes strung along a sandy coastline. A single paved road runs the length of the village, parallel to the ocean, and along this road are homes clustered by family, painted in cheerful pastels, and connected by well-worn paths through the crab grass. “Before,” said Avisake Nasi, a woman in her late 50s who has been fishing this reef her whole life, “you just go out and you find plenty fish. Now, you have to look.” We are sitting on a mat woven from palm fronds spread across her floor, and two of her grandchildren

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