Debate on shark feeding in Fiji

A grey reef shark is an impressive sight in Fiji's waters

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.

Enigmatic dolphins & whales from the Bay of Bengal

Staff from WCS Fiji joined their WCS Bangladesh counterparts in conducting research on dolphins and whales found in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh. For WCS Fiji Field Officers, Margaret Fox and Waisea Naisilisili, this research was part of their training on how to conduct whale and dolphin surveys, with their new skills to be put into practice in Fiji.

It was the first time in this region for the two Fijians and they had an amazing experience in working with the WCS staff from Bangladesh and soaking up the lifestyle and culture of this country. The highlights of their trip started with their journey downriver where they encountered the enigmatic river dolphins, the Irrawaddy and Ganges River dolphins, through to the Sundarban Reserve. This reserve boasts the largest block of mangrove forest in the world and hosts a multitude of species including the rare Royal Bengali tigers, crocodiles, monkeys, deer, various birds, fish, mammals and plants. They continued on to the Bay of Bengal where they conducted extensive studies on the resident but timid Humpback dolphins while also encountering pods of Bottlenose dolphins, Finless porpoises and a Bryde’s Whale.

This intense and informative research trip provided a great insight on the biodiversity and human induced impacts on natural resources from another region, while also training the WCS Fiji staff on the various methodologies that can be applied when conducting scientific surveys on dolphins and whales in Fiji.

 

Disco diving in Fiji

Check out images of a day-glo reef in another blog post from WCS Fiji Director Stacy Jupiter on the Joint Aquarium trip through the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape: http://explorers.neaq.org/2012/03/fiji-disco-diving.html

Science, traditional knowledge and community approaches

 

An interesting article on how science is complimenting traditional community approaches in Fiji.

http://www.scidev.net/en/agriculture-and-environment/features/old-and-new-knowledge-combine-to-protect-fiji-s-fish.html

The simplicity of methods and data are key, as well as their effective integration into local planning and management processes.

 

Adaptive management for resilient MPA network design

Adaptive management for resilient MPA network design

Efforts to develop management strategies that can mitigate the impacts of global environmental and climate change are urgently needed but examples of their application to date are rare. WCS Fiji is leading efforts to developing indicators of coral reef resilience to climate impacts which can be used to prioritise locations for management. We have collected data on reef fish assemblages, coral population structure, coral recruitment, benthic cover and complexity from coral reef habitats within managed (Kubulau District) and unmanaged fishing grounds (Solevu, Nadi, Wainunu, Wailevu districts). We are combining these data with reef habitat classifications and predictions of reef fish assemblage characteristics to identify sites with naturally high resilience and those that can be improved by management. WCS Fiji will then consult with stakeholders in Kubulau District to discuss options for adapting their existing marine protected area (MPA) to improve reef resilience. We will also work with the communities from Bua and Cakaudrove provinces to design new resilient MPA networks.