The Vava’u Ocean Initiative (VOI) is a partnership between the Government of Tonga namely Department of Environment (MEIDECC), Ministry of Fisheries and Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Waitt Institute and VEPA to strengthen and further develop sustainable ocean management programs in Tonga.
VOI began in 2017, through the signing of Memorandum of Understandings to support the development of three main focal areas:
1) National Marine Spatial Planning (MSP): The Government of Tonga initiated their efforts and commitments to Marine Spatial Planning through a Cabinet decision in 2015.
The MSP project is technically supported by the Government working group: Oceans7, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Vava’u Ocean Initiative and the Strengthening Protected Area Management Programme (SPAM).
2) Special Management Areas (SMAs): community based fisheries management program developed by the Ministry of Fisheries to designate coastal community areas including a fish habitat reserve. VOI is assisting with developing and implementing 7 SMAs in Vava’u including strengthening community management and alternative livelihood programmes.
3) Scientific Assessments: providing data and technical analysis to support the implementation of ocean management areas and sustainable practices to enhance marine resources and support livelihood and economic development.