Saturday, 13 September 2008

Dive for sea trash - Fiji Times Online

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A GROUP of conservatio-minded scuba divers undertook a clean-up of Savusavu Harbour after being based there for five weeks.

KoroSun dive director Colin Skipper said after carrying out the clean-up it would be nice if people stopped polluting the harbour.

"This was an opportunity for these visitors to give something back to the community after being made to feel so welcome by the local people," he said.

Mr Skipper said the harbour clean-up was supported by the Savusavu Town Council that disposed of the collected refuse and The Copra Shed Marina which aided the effort by providing a support vessel.

KoroSun Dive plans to also clean up around the wharf and docks in the near future.

"After cleaning up some areas of the harbour it would be nice to think that people will stop throwing rubbish into the ocean," says Mr Skipper.

Dive for sea trash - Fiji Times Online

Friday, 12 September 2008

Fighting the coral fight - Fiji Times Online

Fiji Times
Sunday, July 27, 2008

Every year, the use of anchors for mooring commercial and recreational boats causes millions of dollars worth of damage to coral reefs around the world.

Anchoring on or even near a coral reef can cause immediate, visible damage which impacts the health of the reef and the important fisheries that coral reefs support and also its appeal to tourists.

Using mooring buoys instead of anchors is a simple solution which protects coral reefs and the businesses that depend on them.

The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) non-governmental organisation is working towards effective marine conservation in Fiji by installing a series of permanent moorings within and around the Namena Marine Reserve in Kubulau in Bua together with assistance from the community.

Funds raised through the Moore & Packard Foundation, Mar Viva Foundation and the sales of entrance fees to the Reserve are supporting this initiative.

"There is a two-pronged approach to this mooring buoy project. One is to ensure the Namena Marine Reserve is recognized as an anchor free zone, helping to secure the health and appeal of the reef for years to come. The other is to build direct relationships between the Kubulau community and the dive operators to encourage small scale tourism initiatives," volunteer field representative for CORAL, Heidi Williams said.

"The Kubulau community has a long established qoliqoli management committee, and we are working closely with them to develop a sustainable business plan for the Namena Marine Reserve, including the deployment of permanent moorings; an essential part of any marine park management plan.

"Currently anyone wishing to dive within the reserve must pre-purchase a special æNamena' dive tag for $F25 which goes into a community managed management fund. 50 per cent is specifically allocated to providing scholarships for tertiary education for the young people of Kubulau.

"The other 50 per cent of proceeds is allocated for the management of the reserve and includes covering the cost for fuel to better enforce the marine protected area. It is planned that the money from the management fund will be reinvested and used for providing waged jobs and capital to start up small micro-enterprises for community projects which will enable alternative livelihoods".

Kubulau community member, and a Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) employee, Sirilo Dulunaqio believes the initiative is a positive approach to maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem.

Originally a dive instructor on Namenalala Island, Mr Dulunaqio said that conservation and preservation was something that needed immediate attention. He said these issues should be discussed openly and communities and NGO's should work together as partners to make this happen.

In Kubulau this is certainly the case, the Kubulau Resource Management Committee initiate quarterly stakeholder meetings for all NGO partners and dive operators to meet to discuss the conservation and management of their resources.

It was during one of these meetings that the subject of anchor damage was raised, the community requested assistance to help mitigate this threat to their reef. Now, with CORAL's help, the Namena Marine Reserve will continue to be not only one of the worlds top dive destinations, but a pristine habitat to encourage healthy fish stocks for the future generations for Kubulau.

The Kubulau community will be responsible for the maintenance of the near shore moorings and will be assisted by the dive operators for the maintenance of the offshore moorings. This will be supported financially through the management fund and dive training provided by partner NGO's and diver operators.

Indeed, after the installation of the mooring buoys, Greenforce, a UK based organization that hosts gap year students in Kubulau, plan to conduct coral reef recovery surveys with trained community members to demonstrate the benefit of mooring use.

Building on the dive training provided by Greenforce and WCS, Cousteau dive shop manager Ezra Lanyon has offered a Dive Master internship for any community members certified as a PADI Rescue Diver.

Paula Veileqe of Navatu Village, who has recently completed his Rescue Diver Certificate will be the first to do this and said, "This is a really good opportunity for me and other people in the community, not only are we given the opportunity to contribute to the scientific surveying of our reefs, but we are given the chance to gain valuable professional diving qualifications".

WCS Program Director, Martin Callow said coral recovery surveys could identify the level of coral or benthic cover at the sites where moorings are to be installed and changes in cover could be monitored over time.

He said these surveys are likely to indicate a move towards additional and more diverse benthic organisms, due to the installation of the moorings. This is similar in other parts of the world where moorings have been installed.

Mr Callow said it is important for people to utilize their resources wisely; everyone in Fiji depends on the coastal and marine resources, for food, cultural value, heritage, tourism and livelihoods.

Future generations need these resources as much as we do presently, and their sustainable management is therefore a crucial factor.

"It is very important that communities are ultimately responsible for their own resources now and into the future," Mr Callow said.

"We aim to support management plan development through the science we are conducting, and the mooring initiative in itself will help to protect the marine resources within the Namena reserve and within the wider Kubulau qoliqoli."

Kubulau Resource Management Committee chairman Paulo Kolikata of Namalata Village said that the community realized over 10 years ago that their reefs were in need of protection.

"We initially just wanted to protect our fish stocks for future generations and back then didn't realize how much help or attention we would eventually get for our efforts."

Over the years, with the help of partner NGO's and dive operators, the Namena Marine Reserve and greater Kubulau qoliqoli has become a recognized world class dive destination.

"With the installation of these moorings, people will see that we take the protection of our resources seriously."

Speaking about the potential for tourism within Kubulau, Mr Kolikata said that by bringing tourists to the community, not only gave them a valuable income generating opportunity to further support community projects, but also helped everyone understand the importance of conserving their resources.

He said that the people of Kubulau were excited to meet the divers and hear stories of the beautiful coral reefs they have pledged to protect.

Fighting the coral fight - Fiji Times Online

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

New Manta Ray Species Discovered, Expert Says

Brian Handwerk
July 31, 2008

What scientists call the manta ray is actually at least two distinct species with unique behaviors and lifestyles, a scientist announced recently.

The more commonly known manta ray is smaller and more easily seen, usually staying near coasts.

Little is known about a second, larger species that avoids contact with humans and seems to have wider migration patterns. It also has evolutionary remnants of a spine and a harmless, nonstinging barb on its tail.

The two types—which are not yet named—also appear visually distinct, exhibiting unique colors and textures.

Andrea Marshall, a Ph.D candidate at Australia's University of Queensland, presented the findings last week in Montreal at a first-ever symposium of ray experts.

Graceful Giants

Manta rays are graceful giants in the ray family that can weigh over 4,400 pounds (2,000 kilograms).

Mantas may have wingspans of almost 25 feet (8 meters). The fish are also harmless and do not possess the poisonous barb found in some of their cousins, including some stingray species.

Australian environmentalist Steve Irwin was killed by such a barb.

While both manta species roam all the oceans, they appear to have a different lifestyle.

The smaller rays—familiar to divers in Hawaii, the Maldives, Mozambique, Australia, and Japan—are year-round residents of certain marine spots, such as coral reefs.

Scientists suspect the larger, more mysterious, rays are highly migratory animals that wander the world's seas.

Lucky Site

The species discovery was the unexpected result of five years of hard work and a bit of good fortune, Marshall said.

"As luck would have it, it looks like here in Mozambique is the only [known] location where we see both species interacting on the same reef," said Marshall, whose effort was funded by the Switzerland-based Save Our Seas Foundation.

Though much of Marshall's time was spent underwater, she also logged long hours collecting data around the world in a search for proof that the species were distinct.

To build her case she pursued evidence from DNA labs and Indonesian fishing villages, where the migrating species is still commonly caught.

Rachel Graham of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Punta Gorda, Belize, was impressed by Marshall's work, one of the longest-running manta studies ever conducted.

"We were just incredibly excited about this," she said. "The work was very in-depth and I think [for the most part] the group was convinced."

Conservation Challenges

The new species discovery will add to challenges for those seeking to protect the vulnerable, slow-to-reproduce rays.

The smaller manta species is at risk because of their limited range.

"If someone comes into a coastline or island group and starts up a fishery, you could wipe out that population in a year or two," University of Queensland's Marshall said.

"That would [threaten] regional extinction like what may [be happening] in the Gulf of California."

The migratory mantas provide their own challenges, she added. They respect no borders, so protection efforts must involve a complicated cooperation between many nations and groups.

"Both species face independent issues in terms of conservation management," Marshall said. "We have to understand the threats to each."

New Manta Ray Species Discovered, Expert Says

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Fiji's first satellite turtle tagging

Feature story by Jone Niukula(The National Trust of Fiji) & Sainivalati Navuku (WWF Fiji Country Programme)

12 February 2008. Attempts over the last 2 years to locate and satellite tag a nesting turtle in Fiji bore fruit in January this year. The collaborative effort between the National Trust of Fiji (NTF), the community of Yadua, SPREP (Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme), NOAA (National Ocean & Atmospheric Administration) and WWF has been the climax of on-going efforts over the past years to protect an endangered cultural icon.© WWF Fiji / Sanivalati Navuku. Yadua park ranger Pita Biciloa on the right with Josaia Sukaloa taking measurements of the nesting hawksbill in the background.

Yadua community celebrates turtle tagging: North east of Yadua Taba island (famous iguana sanctuary) on a secluded beach locally known as Talice, a nesting hawksbill turtle was located. The turtle was spotted by the National Trust officer, Jone Niukula, and other members of the team as they made their way to an adjacent beach to await nesting turtles and carry out research work. This was the final attempt during this nesting season, to locate and satellite tag a hawksbill nester, a first for Fiji.

The sight of the turtle crawl tracks on the beach triggered a wave of excitement amongst the research team.

Pita Biciloa, Yadua Taba park ranger maneuvered his boat in an attempt to channel through a small passage to get to Talice. This was a difficult task that demanded accuracy and skill, especially when maneuvering a loaded punt against storm waves that were battering the beach.

Against all odds the team managed to secure the boat ashore, their excitement and enthusiasm fuelled even more, as they approached the turtle crawl tracks on the beach and heard loud “swooshes” – the sound of sand being scattered as the hawksbill turtle began to dig its nest.

The sound of storm waves crashing on the beach, as if to applaud and cheer on the turtle and the far away lighting on the horizon as darkness began to swallow the earth was the most majestic greeting to this ancient sea reptile as it crawled up on to land to nest after decades of navigating the seas. This (nesting) is the only time that turtles are found on land.

It is highly possible that the 88.8cm hawksbill turtle is a hatchling of Yadua returning after more than 25 years to the beach of her birth to transfer her genetic code into the future.

The hawksbill was named ‘Marama ni Yadua’ by the villagers who expressed great emotion at seeing the turtle lay it’s eggs and with the attachment of the satellite tag, commented that it would be an unforgettable experience for them and the community of Yadua. A small church service was also conducted before the turtle was released into the sea with the hope to see it return to Yadua in the years to come.

Fiji’s first satellite tagged turtle: The excitement generated out of locating the nesting turtle on Yadua Taba stems out of the fact that this is Fiji’s first ever satellite tagged turtle. It has become increasingly difficult to find nesting turtles in Fiji, hence the team reacted promptly and set off to Yadua with the satellite tag donated by SPREP.

Turtles are known to nest (lay eggs) from November through to March. Thus, over the holiday period, several other teams were conducting nesting beach work around Fiji including the Mamanuca group, Koro Island and Yadua Taba.

These surveys are a part of Fiji’s Sea Turtle Recovery Plan – a document developed by various stakeholders to address key threats that are contributing to the decline of turtle populations in Fiji.

Implementing these activities has been greatly assisted by the funds that were raised through the 2007 Inaugural Turtle Ball. Marama ni Yadua has been transmitting signals since the satellite tag attachment and the team expects to receive a plotted map by February.

Around the region, satellite telemetry work has enabled several Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) like Samoa, Cook Islands, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia to track the migration of turtles that had nested on their beaches. Several of these telemetry results illustrate a westward trend to migration, with turtles tagged in 3 of the countries / territories listed above migrating to Fiji. Fiji’s healthy seagrass meadows and coral reefs are ‘hotspots’ for turtles to feed.

One famous illustration of this type of work was the migration of Lady Vini – a female hawksbill turtle tagged in Samoa in March 2006 and then moved through the EEZ’s (Exclusive Economic Zones) of 6 PICTs before entering Fiji’s in October 06 where the signal then died.

Editor’s Note:

For several years now, turtle migrations have been tracked through various tagging methods including titanium flipper, passive internal transponder (PIT) or satellite tags. Titanium flipper tags are the more commonly employed method as it is relatively inexpensive. However, data retrieval is entirely dependant upon the serial numbers being reported to the relevant authorities by those who come across turtles carrying these flipper tags. Based on these reports, authorities are then able to plot the turtles path of migration.

While being more expensive, using satellite telemetry to track the migration of turtles during the 2006 Year of the Sea Turtle, SPREP facilitated the satellite tagging of turtles in Samoa, American Samoa, French Polynesia and were working with Fiji to do the same. Perhaps the most famous of those satellite tagged turtles was Lady Vini – a hawksbill nester tagged out of Samoa in March (06) and arrived in Fiji in October (06) after having swum through the EEZs of 6 other Pacific Island countries including Samoa, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Wallis & Futuna. Unfortunately, the signal was lost shortly after her arrival in Fiji.

More photos can be obtained by request. A satellite map will be available in the coming month.

WWF South Pacific | Fiji's first satellite turtle tagging

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Scuba Divers are Willing to Pay More to See Healthy Corals, Sharks and Sea Turtles

New Survey Finds Economic Incentive for Protecting Ocean Resources

Scuba Divers are Willing to Pay More to See Healthy Corals, Sharks and Sea Turtles

Washington, D.C. – Oceana released the results of a new study today that finds a strong economic incentive for protecting living ocean resources. Sea the Value: Quantifying the Value of Marine Life to Divers shows that scuba divers are willing to pay more to see healthy corals, sharks and sea turtles.

“Divers are personally invested in the oceans and truly understand the importance of safeguarding marine wildlife and habitats,” said Suzanne Garrett, dive program coordinator at Oceana. “Divers are avid participants in ecotourism and show a great willingness to protect all that inhabits the oceans.”

Scuba divers contribute more than $4.1 billion dollars to local coastal economies alone each year through dive-related vacations. As part of Sea the Value, conducted in collaboration with Duke University, scuba divers were asked the maximum amount of money they were willing to pay, in addition to their normal dive costs, for the increased likelihood of seeing a particular species. Information was obtained from more than 500 scuba divers from across the United States who responded to a 25 question, web-based survey.

Average additional amount scuba divers are willing to pay per dive to view wildlife and the total annual value across all six million dives taken in the United States

Value (U.S. $)

Sea Turtles


Healthy Corals

Average Per Dive




Total Annual Value

$177.8 million

$212.2 million

$332.1 million

Scuba divers find personal value in seeing healthy marine life when they explore the underwater world. Quantifying this value is important, in part because it provides economic justification for the protection of marine wildlife. In fact, divers are valuable participants in ecotourism and provide economic incentives for coastal areas to protect and preserve the oceans. Many non-coastal cities and states also are home to scuba divers and dive shops that rely heavily on healthy oceans, benefiting from the economic activities of the dive community.

“Divers are great advocates for the oceans because they see first hand what’s happening in the water,” said Elizabeth Griffin, marine wildlife scientist at Oceana. “Failure of ocean managers to decrease pressures from commercial fishing, pollution and climate change continues to threaten the health and future of the world’s oceans.”

When asked whether the U.S. government sufficiently protects its dive sites, most divers said no. Scuba divers saw pollution as the most damaging threat to ocean health, followed by unsustainable fishing, loss of habitat, loss of biodiversity and, finally, climate change. These are all areas where divers feel the U.S. should improve ocean conservation and management to help better protect marine habitats.

For more information on what you can do to help and to view a full copy of the report, please visit

Oceana campaigns to protect and restore the world’s oceans. Our teams of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates win specific and concrete policy changes to reduce pollution and to prevent the irreversible collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other sea life. Global in scope and dedicated to conservation, Oceana has campaigners based in North America, Europe and South America. More than 300,000 members and e-activists in over 150 countries have already joined Oceana. For more information, please visit

Oceana – Protecting the World’s Oceans: International Home