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BROCHURE RACK

Shark Conservation Success in Fiji

 

Promotional Feature 

Described by Ian Campbell, Programme Manager for the WWF Global Shark Programme, as “possibly the most important shark project in the world” Projects Abroad’s Shark Conservation project in Fiji has been operating for almost 18 months  now and continues to be a resounding success.

Located in Pacific Harbour on the south coast of Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, this project offers volunteers the once in a lifetime opportunity to work alongside respected scientists and shark research experts.

Projects Abroad is also running a Global Shark Campaign, which aims to promote awareness and action around these misunderstood creatures, which are often caught as by-products of the fishing industry, or hunted for shark fin soup and meat.

Volunteers who join the project in Fiji take part in the following activities:

Tagging

Tagging at sunrise

Tagging at sunrise

 

The aim of tagging is to enable researchers to study and monitor the movements and behaviour of sharks and to try and identify nursery grounds. The project mainly targets scalloped hammerhead sharks, in order to define the quality of the river mouth as a nursery ground for this species.

The team has been collecting date on the Navua River for nearly a year now. Former lead scientist of the programme, Diego Cardenosa, is now analysing the findings and will report back to the government so that the area can be better managed.

Korovou Bay was also dentified by local fisherman as a potential shark nursery ground for scalloped hammerhead sharks. The months of March and April saw 10 juvenile scalloped hammerheads caught and tagged in Korovou Bay.

Survey Dives

 

Survey dives place a large emphasis on volunteer training and fish identification. Most of the dives so far have been at reefs around the east side of Beqa Lagoon. The results at the site have been varied, with some sites boasting plenty of white tip reef sharks and benthic rays and others devoid of the indicator species with only one or two groupers spotted during the dive.

The plan is to continue surveying random dive sites and comparing the data from the reserves and control areas. A new mapping project has been started and is being carried out by longer term volunteers who are at the placement for a while. Those competent at both diving and fish identification are being asked to map out the exploratory dive sites and draw them out during their land-based time in order to create a map book for future use.

Measuring a shark

Measuring a shark

 

Mangroves

An integral part of the work in Fiji involves mangrove reforestation. The process sees volunteers covering different sites along the coast where they collect propagules to replant. The propagules are then planted into nurseries and nurtured so that they grow stronger and healthier. They’re then replanted back at the coast where they will grow into mangroves and serve as a safe and healthy habitat for juvenile sharks.

In the coming months, the mangrove nursery is being extended to produce 40,000 propagules per month. A carbon footprint analysis model is also being introduced, whereby they can calculate the carbon emissions of local businesses, then plant the corresponding number of mangroves trees to offset those emissions, creating a cleaner Fiji for everyone.

The Fiji Shark Conservation team has now also partnered with 'Mangroves for Fiji' and has taken over the running of the organisation while following their management plans.

Community Education

Another important part of the Fiji Shark Conservation project involves going out into the community and creating awareness amongst the local people on the importance of shark conservation, mangrove reforestation and recycling.  The aim is to exchange knowledge and skills that will empower the locals to protect their natural resources and marine environments.

The first two months of the year saw a focus on Vunibau and Galoa villages. The volunteers created an underwater world at the kindergarten at Vunibau Village which has resulted in an increased attendance and a greater interest in learning about marine conservation amongst the children.

Recycling

Environmentalism and recycling are always at the forefront of Projects Abroad’s endeavors when it comes to their projects across the globe. In Fiji they’ve found an alternative solution to managing their garbage and waste materials.

Bricks made out of rubbish make for great retaining walls for the veggie garden and compost box. Although highly time consuming, there’s no denying the staggering amount of rubbish that can be stuffed into an empty milk carton and used as a homemade brick.

Dirty Day’

Once a month volunteers get involved in activities that give back to the community as a whole. This differs from month to month and ranges from painting schools and building fences to developing nature areas.

The Dirty Day in January was dedicated to a young girl who has cerebral palsy. Projects Abroad, together with a charity called The Happy Homes Trust, fixed the floor, door, window frames and adjusted the ramp into the house. February saw another local family receive some assistance at their house from the Dirty Day volunteers. The house belongs to a family whose son has muscular dystrophy. He was finding it increasingly difficult to use the stairs leading into the house. $1,000 in timber was donated toward the task by a generous anonymous donor. The volunteers used this to create ramps to allow easier wheelchair access into the house.

Who joins this project and what experience is needed?

Group of volunteers

Group of volunteers

 

What makes this project so appealing is that volunteers do not need any previous diving or shark research experience to take part. They are briefed pre-departure and upon arrival in destination and then the training begins. The first week or two of the project are dedicated to first time divers receiving their PADI Open Water certification. Volunteers who already have an existing dive certification receive the PADI Advanced course during this time. The project is open to anyone aged 16 and up and simply requires a love of marine life and the willingness to partake in diving and conservation oriented work. The project has so far attracted a wide range of ages and nationalities, and is so popular it’s typically booked up several months ahead.

Projects Abroad overview 

Operating for over 20 years now, Projects Abroad are industry leaders specialising in volunteer placements in over 25 countries around the world. If you’d like to be part of a movement focused on expert scientific research with a holistic approach to shark conservation then why not join them as they forge ahead on their mission to research these majestic creatures and conserve their marine environment. To sign up for this project or others on offer by Projects Abroad head over to www.projects-abroad.co.uk or give them a call on 01903­ 708300.

 Read more about Shark Conservation in Fiji here.