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Shark dive tourism is a lucrative and booming global market. Feeding to attract sharks to divers has generated significant concerns, with many criticisms focusing on the potential for ecological and behavioral impacts. A lecture by Mike Neumann, an established dive operator practicing shark feeding at Shark Reef Marine Reserve on Fiji’s Coral Coast, informed lively discussion this week.
Mike highlighted recent research from the University of Miami (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iFl7BxbnXQ) showing that sharks from Barbados (where shark feeding is common) maintain similar territories and long-distance feeding forays as sharks in Florida, where there is no shark feeding.
Visitors attracted to see the big sharks are making a significant contribution to the local economy on and help communities ‘monitise’ the benefits of Marine Protected Areas. Mike’s business also raises awareness of the habitat degradation and unsustainable fishing (mainly due to the high value of shark fins) that contribute to a rapidly decreasing shark population in the Pacific.
Given the research findings, Mike and others believe that that shark diving tourism should be accepted as a part of the conservation landscape in Fiji and put the onus on those who disagree to provide evidence demonstrating otherwise.
A finalised a set of protected areas, management rules and protocols for an Ecosystem-Based Management Plan have been finalised at WCS Fiji’s recent Management Support Workshop in Wainunu District, Bua Province of Fiji.
Providing a foundation for sustainable management of terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems, the plan fuses scientific research with local management approaches. It links to work being delivered in Kubulau, Nadi, Solevu and Wailevu Districts as part of WCS Fiji’s focus on the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape, one of Fiji’s last great wild places.
Representatives from Wainunu’s villages and settlements (except Cogea, which was under a typhoid quaratine) came together with WCS Fiji and Bua Provincial Council in Nakawakawa village. Changes to protected area boundaries and management rules reflected further consideration and input from communities since the last planning workshop in November 2011.
The Wainunu Resource Management Committee was established to lead and oversee implementation, with sub-committees for Communication and Enforcement to help drive progress. Their first meeting was held immediately after the workshop, before formalising their existence with Tui Wainunu and at the Bose Vanua the following day.
WCS Fiji is looking forward to working with the Wainunu Resource Management Committee to implement the plan and contribute to conservation of these valuable ecosystems for future generations.
This project is kindly funded by grants from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Disney Friends for Change Programme and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (US Department of Commerce).