Fiji's fisherwomen bear the brunt of climate change

STORY: Climate change is wiping out this unique species of seaweed, and the livelihoods of the fisherwomen in Fiji who survive on it.

"We are struggling to find, some spot for a lot of nama. If it’s a good spot, we stop there."

Sera Baleisasa has relied on nama, often known elsewhere as sea grapes, for ten years.

She dives deep into the waters to pluck this seaweed from the ocean floor... and earn a living.

But as the oceans get warmer, sea grapes are slowly disappearing -- and fisherwomen like Sera see their livelihoods drying up.

Fisherwoman Karen Vusisa says she used to collect a 44-pound sack of nama in a day's harvest.

Now, she considers herself lucky to find even half of that.

"It’s saddening, really, it's saddening, because this has been their way of life."

Alani Tuivucilevu is a marine biologist who advocates for Fiji's fisherwomen.

She says nama, usually served soaked in coconut milk and added to salads, is an essential part of Fiji's daily diet -- and their culture.

"Depletion of nama supply means, really, eroding of a way of life and to a certain degree, of culture and traditions. And it does not only, I’m sure it does not only translate to the nama species. For the Fijian culture in general, there’s a lot more species that would be dying out elsewhere because of the effect of climate change."

Nama is especially sensitive to heat, making it vulnerable in turn to global warming.

Warmer oceans have also led to more frequent and destructive cyclones, which have swept away entire marine habitats -- and the nama with it.

It all forces Fiji's fisherwomen further and further out to sea in search of their sole source of income -- taking more and more time away from their families.

Tuivucilevu says the financial burden may soon become too much for them to bear -- and that the world's biggest polluters must begin to take responsibility.

"Adaptation has always been a driving theme for the Pacific Islands. But we cannot keep on adapting, we cannot keep adapting. The main emitters need to recognise that the effects is not on them, that we are facing the brunt. So, basically what they need to realise that their actions, we face the consequences."