Shark Conservation Success in Fiji
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.
Volunteers who join the project in Fiji take part in the following activities:
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Who joins this project and what experience is needed?
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.
Read more about Shark Conservation in Fiji here.