Conservation and Environment in Fiji: Monthly Updates
Fiji Shark Conservation - Monthly Update - July - August 2015
It has been another wonderful two months for the Shark Conservation project in Fiji. Although we have experienced bad weather, our volunteers have done a lot of great work. A big ‘vinaka vakalevu’ to all of our hard working volunteers who have toughed it out in some challenging conditions.
We had numerous shark sightings including zebra sharks, bull sharks, white tip reef sharks, black tip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, tawny nurse sharks and many more. There have also been a few cetacean sightings including humpback whales during surface intervals and while crossing the passage to Beqa Lagoon. Sea turtles, both hawksbill and green turtles, have made regular appearances on survey dives around the study sites. Schooling barracuda and red snappers, as well as malabar groupers and key indicator species have been sighted regularly making for action packed survey diving.
The underwater environment has been beautiful, regardless of the weather conditions. Beqa Adventure Divers purchased new 5mm rental wetsuits, which has made a huge difference in the comfort of our volunteers during their diving day. The biodiversity and biomass has been very impressive often filling survey diver’s slates with indicator species data. Cold water brings in more nutrients, therefore more predatory fish!
There have been very few BRUV drops in the past few months due the weather and surface conditions. The crossing has been made impossible because of the massive swell and the trade winds. We have managed to get around 1-2 BRUV drops a week in the last two months. We tried to do an experimental BRUV in the close reef region but the currents pick up to fast and we almost lost the BRUV. We haven’t tried to do it since.
However there have been multiple drops, focusing on small reserve and control areas because of the lack of data we have from there over the past year. We have also dropped multiple times around Yanuca MPA and control due to the fact it is much closer and well protected from the easterly winds.
Over the last two months, much work has been completed with the Mangroves for Fiji project. The project has a few different aspects involved and this includes constructing nursery areas. The outcome of all this work has various benefits and by taking part in mangrove afforestation volunteers are indirectly responsible for:
- Depositing significant quantities of detritus into the marine environment, which in turn provides food for sea-life
- Providing a nesting, nursery and refuge ground for mammals, amphibians, reptiles, countless species of plants, juvenile fish including sharks, invertebrates, sponges, barnacles, oysters, mussels, crabs, shrimps and many avian species
- Recharging underground water supplies
- Rrapping debris and silt, stabilising the near shore environment, preventing shore erosion and clarifying adjacent open water which facilitates photosynthesis in marine plants
- Buffering natural forces such as hurricanes, wave action, tidal change and run off
- Sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and mitigating the effects of global warming
During the months of July and August, Projects Abroad volunteers and staff undertook the mammoth task of converting the Ventura nursery from a bamboo structure into a pine structure. Upright posts are cemented into the ground and the structure is screwed together. This nursery structure will now require minimal maintenance compared to the bamboo nursery that needed to be repaired on a weekly basis.
Propagule tables continue to be constructed and implemented into the nursery to further increase capacity. By constructing tables from timber and metal mesh sheets, the top halves of the bottles are placed on the tables and bottom halves are placed under the tables. Approximately 18,000 propagules are currently housed in the Ventura nursery. Other achievements of the last two months include successful planting of 5500 established propagules into the wild.
July and August were some exciting months. The end of University of the South Pacific Masters student, Celso Cawich’s, project was successful! Even though the weather was against us, and numerous tagging trips had to be cancelled, we managed to tag 58 juvenile Scalloped hammerhead sharks, two juvenile White spotted guitarfish, and one juvenile Zebra shark in the Rewa river mouth. As far as we know, it was the first time in Fiji that those two last species have been tagged. What an amazing experience for the staff and the volunteers!