Tahitian Atoll Casts Off for New Chapter of Sustainable Tourism

Fly-fishing is set to cast off at a remote atoll in the South Pacific, opening up an idyllic new fishing spot for Australian anglers while creating sustainable tourism opportunities for the small island community of Anaa.

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Anaa (pron Arna) is an isolated atoll located 350 kilometres east of Tahiti in French Polynesia’s Tuamotu archipelago, accessible by a weekly flight from Papeete and home to a community of fewer than 500 residents, mostly elders.

While Anaa looks like paradise, with crystal-clear waters, a turquoise lagoon and palm-fringed beaches, its geography and isolation mean there are limited education and employment opportunities, prompting the island’s youth to leave their home. When children turn 11, many move to the main island of Tahiti to attend high school and either stay there or head overseas to pursue further education or employment.

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Only 6.5km by 29.5km in size, the island is looking to build its economy by developing its fly-fishing industry – a natural choice given its fringing reef, expansive sand flats, coral bommies and lagoon are home to a huge variety of species including Bonefish, Bluefin Trevally, Giant Trevally, Triggerfish, Red Bass and Napoleon Wrasse.

After developing sustainable fishing practices at eco resort The Brando on neighbouring atoll Tetiaroa, the Australian and British branches of Fly Odyssey saw similar opportunities for a community-led fishing business model on Anaa.

James Laverty from Fly Odyssey Australia said Anaa would provide a special fly-fishing experience for Australian anglers with great seasonal fishing in an idyllic setting.

“There aren’t many places left in the world that are unique from a fishing perspective and Anaa is one of them. It’s a very exclusive product and will be perfect for Australians looking for something different. For one week, the fishermen will practically have the island, and the fish, all to themselves,” James said.

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Tahitian Hinano Bagnis, who developed the project with Fly Odyssey, said fly-fishing provided a great opportunity for small isolated islands in French Polynesia to diversify their economy, which presently relied heavily on copra culture and small scale fisheries.

“In addition to the direct employment created by increased tourism activities, the community can develop alternative sustainable livelihoods in related support industries. If the inhabitants are provided with a new source of income, it also offers an incentive for their kids to stay and even return to their home island. Eco- tourism also leads to conservation of the fisheries and the environment that sustains them,” Hinano said.

Tahiti Tourisme Director Australia Robert Thompson said fly-fishing was an exciting new tourism drawcard for the destination.

“The islands of Tahiti are perfect for fishing, and saltwater fly-fishing is a growing niche within the sport. We’re very excited about the potential of this market and think Australian anglers will be hooked on our beautiful atolls, like Anaa, at first sight,” Mr Thompson said.

The Fly Odyssey team has visited Anaa several times in recent years to consult with the community and provide training and James said locals were excited and enthusiastic about the new chapter.

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As part of the initiative, a fisheries scientist has called the island home for the past 18 months, working with locals to assess the fishery so that sustainable management recommendations can be put forward to the community in the future.

In a case of ‘build it and they will come’, one resident has constructed four thatched beach huts in anticipation of the island’s visitors. The villas can house groups of up to eight fishermen with flow on accommodation available in locals’ homes, providing a truly authentic French Polynesian experience.

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Fly Odyssey is offering limited opportunities for fly-fishing in Anaa in 2016 and 2017 as part of their ongoing fisheries research program. Seven-day packages start from $3930* per person including twin share accommodation in a beach bungalow at Anaa Pension Lodge, full board including cooked breakfast, packed lunches and banquet dinner nightly, complimentary use of kayaks and bicycles, six days’ guided fly-fishing, conservation fee, cultural experiences on Anaa, return airport transfers and one additional night’s accommodation in Tahiti.

*subject to availability, conditions apply. Price excludes international flights to Tahiti, domestic flights to Anaa, fly gear and tackle, and gratuities

For more information and to book visit www.flyodyssey.com.au

For more information on Tahiti visit www.tahiti-tourisme.com.au