Photos: Graves sink, fishing shrinks as climate change hits Fiji


The sea has already engulfed the village graveyard in Togoru, Fiji, and longtime resident Lavenia McGoon dreads the day it claims her home.

She stacks old rubber car tires under the coconut palms along the beach, hoping this improvised seawall will at least buy some time.

The 70-year-old believes climate change and the creeping ocean will inevitably force her family to leave.

“No one can stop it,” McGoon said, as the tide comes in and crabs run across the tombstones. “Nobody can stop water.”

Togoru is a small settlement on the south coast of Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu. It is one of dozens of coastal villages in the Pacific archipelago now facing the realities of climate change.

Fiji has meticulously prepared for the day when it will be necessary to relocate coastal villages. The scale of the challenge is enormous: the government estimates that more than 600 communities could be forced to relocate, including 42 villages under urgent threat.

More than 70 percent of the country’s 900,000 residents live within five kilometers (three miles) of the coast.

Sea levels in the Western Pacific have risen two to three times faster than the global average, according to Australia’s Monash University.

Entire low-lying countries such as Kiribati and Tuvalu could become uninhabitable within 30 years.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, about half of Fiji’s rural population depends on fishing for survival. But the country’s fisheries are under pressure on several fronts.

Warmer seas are disrupting coastal ecosystems, while stocks of valuable species such as tuna have been plundered by foreign ships.

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