At this point it is too early to tell what effect the recent ruling will have on the various islands that have maintained exclusive surf rights to various reefs in Fiji over the past years. The ruling is not yet in effect. The Minister of Tourism has yet to set a date at which time the ruling will be set in place, if at all.
There are many issues to be reconsidered prior to final implementation which were likely not thoroughly reviewed prior to the initial judgment. For example:
Villages which currently control usage over their traditional reefs have prospered greatly from the utilization of their resources enabling them to build schools, clinics and bring in power and electricity. These villages are appealing the judgment.
The intention of the Fiji government, who do not truly understand the sport of surfing, is to increase the image of Fiji as one of the world’s premier surf destinations; will this ruling really increase the appeal of surf travel to Fiji? And if so, to whom?
Should the current exclusivity agreements be abolished, who will be responsible for attending to and rescuing the various surfers who become injured each week while surfing the few reefs which have been exclusive and managed in the past? If safety is not monitored on these reef and tourist are seriously injured (which occurs regularly); how will this reflect on the overall profile of surfing in Fiji?
How will the economy of the Fiji government and the villages on a local level be impacted by repealing the long running exclusivity agreements?
These are only a few of the issues on the surface, but the broader concerns run deep. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available. Regardless of the final ruling the surf in Fiji will remain epic and the couple resorts that have best access to those breaks will continue to run superior operations.