About the Author
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Yashika is one of our Field Officers, specializing in coral reef ecology and particularly reef resilience to climate change. Always enthusiastic, sometimes it's hard to stop Yashika talking about her corals!

Korovou hosts first “Poverty Alleviation Workshop” for 2013

With the Fiji Government’s determination to alleviate poverty in Fiji, the Prime Minister’s Office has been conducting “Poverty Alleviation Awareness Workshop” in remote areas of Fiji since 2012. Despite our very tight schedule helping communities in Bua, Margy and I represented WCS at workshop held in Korovou, a small town in the district of Tailevu, located in the north-eastern part of Viti Levu on the 13th and 14th of March, 2013.

We expected it to be more business-oriented type workshop on how to make money, so we made sure to share our alternative livelihood project ideas in order to let the communities know that conservation and managing resources can help them earning as well. Margy designed a beautiful poster for the “kuta mat project” that instantly became a hit amongst women passing by.

Kini Koto came in to help on the 13th and was the star among school kids telling all about freshwater fish, while Margy stole the show with the cetacean videos proving her favorite quote “charismatic mega-faunas always win!”. I stood there thinking, how can I be so boring? So I had to literally interfere with the 2 stars and promote the puppet show that was scheduled for 4.00 pm. I directed kids to the publication poster to tell them about the “entertainment type” benefits of conservation- “comic books – easy and attractive”. Unfortunately for us, the puppet show had to be cancelled in the end as it was quite late and the students headed home by 3.30 pm.

I was quite impressed with the enthusiasm of the students about natural resources, mainly marine life. We had a lot of kids come around later to ask us, “Ma’am, how can we join this?” and I thought, “Wow, this is our future!”. All of the hype and enthusiasm about conservation was a reward for taking our time out to go for this workshop, not a bad deal after all.

Having our WCS booth about conservation and resource management in the middle of most money making institutions and Government Departments was like a little gift to people interested in resource management and school kids worried about the environment. Talking to us gave them an excellent opportunity to think about ways of getting money out of natural resources without exploitation. Sharing the experiences and stories of the beneftis that communities have gained from engaging with conservation was a big boost to other people coming into the workshop.

Until next time, moce!
Yashika

Cetacean spotting in Vatu-i-ra Seascape

Watching cetaceans play in waters of Fiji’s Vatu-i-Ra Seascape was a lovely experience. The whales and dolphins love to entertain while they guide travelers during bad weather, according to the village elders. Their performances are so varied; they breach, spin, spy-hop (when dolphins pop their heads above the surface and look around), flap their tail or flippers – all part of their communication system, but an amazing display of behaviour for us. They also make different noises underwater, sometimes to attract mates or just talk to each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was part of the 2012 WCS Fiji Cetacean Hotspot Survey (1st to 11th August), together with Margy and Waisea, community representatives, and Dr Cara Miller from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) as the cetacean expert to guide us. We were hosted in the beautiful village of Nasau in Ra Province, northeastern Viti Levu, where we were welcomed with lot of excitement.

On Day 1 of the survey we were rewarded with a sighting of a humpback whale as soon as we reached Vatu-i-Ra Island – a tiny speck in the waters of the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape, over 20 km from the nearest land. We started by testing two different methods for recording sightings: boat transects and land-based sightings from a vantage point with a 360° view of the open ocean. Later the land-based team joined the boat team due to bad weather preventing clear sightings from land. Day 2 was a day without any sightings, although we did manage to record some faint whale songs. I was getting anxious, hoping I would catch some close-up glimpses of the whales and dolphins recorded in previous years. Things improved on Day 3 as we spotted a pod of Bottlenose dolphin adults with calves – they were cute, fat, and fast swimmers. Much to our delight, one of the calves was spy-hoping while our cameras snapped. The same day we encountered a pod of Shortfin pilot whales scattered over a larger area, with one of the group coming to check us out – you can see a short clip of his visit below!

We had evening events every night where Waisea explained the day’s happenings to the villagers and we showed them videos, pictures and songs. All songs were recorded using a hydrophone provided by WDCS, so that the songs could be analysed later and compared cetacean songs from other regions. Some of the songs we recorded on Day 4 sounded like whale and dolphin rap, where the whales would sing first and the dolphins would respond to it! The adventure continued with plenty of whales and dolphins sighted on the 4th day – Spinner dolphins, Shortfin pilot whales and Humpback whales were all there, swimming happily in the water. After a break on Sunday, we were welcomed on Monday with deteriorating weather which restricted us to land-based survey for a few days. Finally we managed to complete our last few boat transects, with a few more sightings and songs recorded.

I returned very happy because we saw so many different cetaceans, and recorded songs almost every day – it was an adventurous trip!

WCS Fiji gratefully acknowledge funding from The Marisla Foundation to carry out this work.

Fiji was a global attraction at the International Coral Reef Symposium

Fiji delegates shared conservation success stories and ongoing efforts at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Cairns, Australia (9-13 July 2012). Fiji was represented by partner organizations from the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area (FLMMA) network, including WCS Fiji (Stacy, Margy, Akuila and I made up our team), the Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS) at the University of the South Pacific, and SeaWeb.

Although not officially part of the coral triangle hotspot, Fiji was shown to be a marine biodiversity hotspot in Stacy’s presentation. Margy captured a lot of attention by linking traditional knowledge to protecting spawning aggregation sites in Fiji. Akuila shared his story on the importance of adaptive management. I became a celebrity, posing with my poster on “Consideration of disturbance history for resilient MPA network design”. Ron Vave (IAS), charmed the audience with his findings on the effectiveness of locally managed marine areas in Fiji, while Saki Fong (IAS) shed more light on the socioeconomic implications of establishing these marine protected areas. Semesi Meo gave the audience a show on ecological effectiveness of community-based management in Fiji. Alifereti Tawake (a former IAS staff member, now a PhD student at James Cook University) talked about social and cultural attributes of effective adaptive management systems.

                   

Our shared experiences of conservation on the ground were enough to let the world know about Fiji. The reports from international students who have worked in Fiji got other people interested in working in these beautiful islands in the future – this really gave us a boost to hear their enthusiasm.

ICRS was a great chance for us to network with a number of leading conservation managers and scientists from all over the world. At the same time we were digesting as much information as possible from the diverse efforts being undertaken internationally to ensure coral reefs thrive in the future.

Give coral reefs a chance

It was a pleasure conducting the reef resilience “Training of Trainers” workshop in Suva in February. As a part of the outcomes of the training, and requests from participants, WCS Fiji has developed community-friendly posters on:

1. Spotting signs of stress on your reef

2. Considerations for a resilient marine protected area

Please get in touch through infofiji@wcs.org if you would like copies of these posters to help your community better manage their marine resources!

This project was kindly supported by grants from The Nature Conservancy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (US Department of Commerce).

                                             

 

Boosting reef resilience

Boosting reef resilience

 

A participant at the reef resilience training workshop studies his implementation plan.

Reef managers in Fiji have expanded their understanding of the science behind coral reef resilience, and the benefits a resilient reef can bring, helping with better management strategies for the future of coral reefs. More than 20 people from Fiji’s Locally Managed Marine Area network attended the reef resilience (R2) training organized by WCS Fiji in Suva. The training touched on topics such as climate change impacts on reef ecosystems, coral disease, early warning systems, resilient MPA design, bleaching response plan and effective communication of reef resilience concepts to communities.

The major outcome of R2 training was the development of a local-scale bleaching response plan template for communities. This plan can be adapted for the different communities across Fiji, and takes a simple and pragmatic approach, with the main resources required being community support and keen eyes! It is divided into four components: (1) Coral health and impact assessment – eyes on reef; (2) Early warning systems – communication tools; (3) Management actions – preventative and responsive; and, (4) Socioeconomic implications.

The training was a success as all participants left with an implementation plan for their sites, for example to update communities on reef resilience concepts or to request new protected areas to increase the resilience of the local MPA network. A big vinaka to all participants and facilitators! This project was kindly supported by The Nature Conservancy.