This paper presents findings from a species-by-species assessment of the collapse and recovery of a tropical mollusk fishery in Navakavu, Fiji. The results are based on field surveys, photo documentation, collection of voucher specimens, participant observation, and testimonies of past and current generations of female and male fishers. The results show the degradation of fisheries resources at almost all trophic levels over the past 40 years due to overfishing, destructive fishing techniques, and environmental degradation, as well as the positive impacts of the establishment of a locally managed marine area (LMMA) and associated marine protected area (MPA), known locally as “Vueti Navakavu.” Since its establishment in 2002, nearly 300 mollusk species, including gastropods, bivalves, and cephalopods, are either being seen for the first time in over 40 years or are clearly increasing in abundance and/or size class. There has been a particularly dramatic increase in the abundance of a wide range of cone shells (Conus spp.), cowries (Cypraea spp.), conches (Strombidae), murexes (Muricidae), auger shells (Terebridae), and turban snails (Turbanidae), as well as octopus, squid, and seahare, all of which are of economic, cultural, and ecological importance. The results show that sustained effective marine conservation can, in general, lead to the recovery of seriously degraded fisheries and, in particular, of tropical mollusk fauna. This assessment highlights the value of synthesizing up-to-date taxonomic and scientific knowledge with the knowledge of older fishers, who have long-term multi-species knowledge of changing fisheries.
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Vol. 37 • No. 3