Conservation and Environment in Fiji: Monthly Updates
Fiji Shark Conservation Bimonthly – May and June 2016
Over the last two months, our incredible volunteers have been completing high valued work at the Shark Conservation Project. Most notably, the volunteers must be congratulated on successfully planting an astounding 5 000 mangrove propagules at Navala Village in one planting effort. Of course this was followed with much work to help replenish the mangrove nursery after. The weather treated us well, which made for some wonderful days out survey diving in the Beqa Lagoon. The volunteers collected important data on these survey dives, including sightings of critically endangered hawksbill turtles and many other sharks, rays, and predatory fish. Excitingly, four of our long-term volunteers at the project also completed the Divemaster challenge, now marking them as dive professionals. Tagging efforts have also continued in the Rewa and Deuba rivers. A tagging trip made the end of June thrilling, as our lead scientist and volunteers tagged and released two juvenile bull sharks and juvenile spotted eagle ray in one evening. Community outreach has continued to bring knowledge of sharks and mangroves to local schools, and introduce and involve our volunteers to the local culture. Our volunteers have also done a fantastic job at cleaning up during monthly beach cleans, preventing marine debris from washing out to sea.
Lovely weather over these past few months has meant some brilliant diving in the Beqa Lagoon and amazing data being collected.
We have seen some amazing sights; whitetip reef sharks, grey reef sharks and bull sharks have all featured, including some incredibly cute baby whitetips. In addition, we have seen Napoleon wrasse, hawksbill turtles, green sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, day octopi, moray eels and an enormous great barracuda that joined our safety stop one morning in the Yanuca region. We also saw five bluespotted ribbontail rays in just one day of diving.
Our indicator species of groupers, snappers, emperors, mackerels and tunas, jacks and trevallies, and barracuda have been recorded in abundance on every dive.
Our Sunday Funday Fun Dives continued to delight with our focus shifting to the smaller reef creatures. In the past two months we have seen sightings of the following nudibranchs: Pteraeolidia semperi, Chromodoris lochi, Phyllidia pustulosa, Phyllidia ocellata, Phyllidia varicosa and Cuthona sibogae. Additionally we sighted two new nudibranchs: Goniobranchus kuniei and Flabellina rubropurpurata. New marine flatworms were also sighted: Pseudoceros cf. dimidiatus, Maritigrella eschara and an unidentified species. Pipefish, guard crabs, shrimps and cleaning stations were also fun to see on these dives.
In the past two months we have completed BRUV drops in Yanuca Control, Yanuca Reserve and Medium Reserve. We now also have the finish line in sight for the first phase of the Yanuca part of the BRUV project; with just two drops needed in Yanuca Control and six in Yanuca Reserve we hope to complete this during July and August.
In the past two months we have watched four of our volunteers develop into fantastic Divemasters, qualifying as entry level PADI dive professionals. Massive congratulations to Pius Galli, Louis Klarup, Jasmin Kohl and Anadya Puri for completing the challenging training. We wish you the best of luck in your future diving careers.
Kerstin and the Projects Abroad team are still looking for the juvenile bull sharks in Rewa River. Numerous fishes got caught, including a 10 kilogram mangrove snapper, but still no sharks. While volunteers were deploying the research fishing gear last month, fishermen nearby caught two bull sharks. This is another confirmation that the chosen area is legitimate but also frustrating not to catch them. Patience is needed.
At the end of June, in Deuba River, the volunteers and our lead scientist, Gauthier Mescam, caught two juvenile bull sharks and a young spotted eagle ray. It was a fantastic end to the month and the volunteers loved it!
I3S Shark Identification
At every shark dive, two cameras are deployed on top of the reef and are set to take pictures every few seconds for the Shark Reef Marine Reserve reef shark population assessment project. Back at the shark conservation headquarters, the volunteers sort the pictures and attribute a score depending on the number of sharks and the usability for the population assessment program.
Over the last two months much work was completed with the mangroves for the Fiji project. The project has a few different aspects which includes constructing nursery areas from bamboo and nylon mesh, recycling plastic bottles by cutting them in half and making holes in the underside, filling bottles with substrate, collecting propagules, planting propagules in pots, watering propagules, weeding pots, replacing dead propagules for live ones, and planting established propagules into the wild. 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
- Trapping 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 May and June, Projects Abroad volunteers and staff continued to plant propagules in mangrove nurseries. This allowed them to establish a root system and therefore increase survival rate once planted into the wild. Volunteers and staff have recently extended the nursery at Vunibau Village and managed to plant an additional 300 mangroves. Vunibau Nursery now holds 1 500 propagules. Volunteers and staff have also constructed a new nursery at Pacific Harbour Multi-Cultural School which holds 1002 mangroves. There are plans to extend the nursery and have the students help the volunteers to maintain the pots by weeding and watering the propagules.
A site has been decided on for the construction of the main mangrove nursery by the Uprising Beach Resort management. Projects Abroad volunteers and staff will be constructing this in the coming weeks. The mangrove display nursery has been built holding 241 propagules. In addition to having this nursery, the management of the Uprising Beach Resort has requested that volunteers and staff plant propagules along a ditch by the reception area to stop the soil from falling in, as well as a few on the beach to stop the erosion of the beach access. This will be completed over the coming weeks with the help of the senior students from Pacific Harbour Multi-Cultural School.
On 16 June a German film crew filming conservation work in the South Pacific filmed volunteers and staff planting 5000 mangroves in the tidal area in front of Navola Village. This village has been fighting coastal erosion for some years now and got in contact with the Projects Abroad staff to assist them by planting mangroves. This was a very successful day in the field followed by a kava ceremony and lunch provided by the villages to thank the volunteers and staff for their hard work.
‘Time flies but not the memories’ - Ika Natassa
It has been an incredible two months of serious work in the local community. Amazingly, we’ve reached the middle of the month and our volunteers have contributed passionately in creating awareness in schools and villages. Education has always had a bigger impact in spreading the word of ‘Shark Conservation’ to the local community.
In two months, Projects Abroad volunteers have visited four schools to create awareness on protecting the marine ecosystem and mangroves. Pacific Harbour Multi-Cultural School, Lomary Primary School and Rampur Primary (visited twice) were our main targets these last two months. Volunteers successfully revived the story of ‘Shark Stanley’ at Rampur Primary and students showed a lot of interest in having the story book in their school; Projects Abroad therefore offered three ‘Shark Stanley’ story books to Rampur Primary. To incorporate what we teach in schools, we also did a beach clean at Uprising Resort where we collected so much rubbish. Volunteers did a great job in recording all this data. May Dirty Day was held at Happy Homes where volunteers assisted the home in cleaning up the grassland in their backyard and creating a new vegetable patch. June took us back to Lomary Primary School, where we retouched the paint on the Community Hall and completed what was left off from our previous visit. Every month ends in high spirits as volunteers get to immerse themselves into the Fijian culture. We visited Dranikula Village where we were taught how houses and thatched roofs were made in Fiji. Volunteers learned the local dances and how to cook food in the earth oven (Lovo).
The main highlight of these months was planting the 5000 mangroves on Navola Beach. Everyone worked together in making these months a successful one!
Field Scientist/Project Co-ordinator