Conservation and Environment in Fiji: Monthly Updates
Fiji Shark Conservation - Monthly Update - September - October 2015
The project has been very successful during the months of September and October, as a lot has been achieved. Vinaka to our volunteers for their hard work over the last two months!
It has been a fantastic two months for Survey Diving in Beqa Lagoon. We have been lucky enough to see many creatures big and small for all to record and enjoy whilst improving their diving skills.
The colder waters have meant we have had sightings of Zebra Sharks, Silvertip Sharks, White Tip Reef Sharks, Tawny Nurse Sharks and even a brief glimpse of the ever elusive Guitarfish. We have also been lucky enough to again witness Humpback Whales on the boat ride back to Beqa Adventure Divers, one afternoon they were right by the boat and we saw a mother and baby for around five minutes breaching the surface.
Our indicator species of Groupers, Snappers, Emperors, Mackerel, Tuna and Barracuda have been recorded on every dive. We’ve even had a Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel recorded that was larger than a Whitetip Reef Shark. Every dive brings something new to admire and continue to record for science!
We have had an interesting time with the BRUV over the past two months. In September, a number of weeks of bad weather meant BRUV drops were not possible in our regions of scientific study. However, our perseverance and positive thinking meant we have managed to drop a number of BRUVs recently in both the Medium and Yanuca areas and we hope that when the new bait cage arrives it will be able to protect the bait from being stolen by hungry Snappers!
It is now the very low season for the juvenile scalloped Hammerhead Sharks, which means the catch rate has been at its lowest. It also means that the juveniles caught were much bigger and stronger. However, a beautiful and strong 85cm female Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) has been caught, tagged and released in the month of October.
Recently we had a call from our local fisher friends. They found two Blacktip Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) and one Lemon Shark (Negaprion acutidens) dead in their net. These events are very unfortunate, but very common. The volunteers assisted to the dissection of one of them by our lead scientist. You can see the impressive size of the liver that can represent up to 25% of the body weight.
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 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 plant, fish and 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 September and October, Projects Abroad volunteers and staff continued to construct and implement propagule tables into the Ventura 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 15,000 propagules are currently housed in the Ventura nursery and plastic bottles are continually being collected from local resorts and villages to be used as pots in the nursery areas. Other achievements of the last 2 months include successful planting of 5000 and 7000 established propagules into the wild during the months of September and October respectively.
Community days over the last two months have been very successful. Volunteers visited Vunibau Village, Galoa Village, Makosoi Village and Pacific Harbour Multi Cultural School. Volunteers took part in arts and crafts based around the topic of shark conservation. The entire exercise was used as a tool for exciting and teaching the children on the content of their local marine environment.
On two community days we also held a cultural day at Ventura apartments by where locals came and taught the volunteers how to make traditional hats and clothing out of palm leaves, and then taught them traditional dance which they practiced all day and performed in the evening. Three dances, girls, boys, and mixed. The evening finale was a fire dance performance by the locals. The volunteers also learned how to prepare a traditional lovo dinner where food is wrapped in leaves and cooked with hot stones underground.