WWF surveys Fiji's Great Sea Reef



Posted on 07 December 2004
Divers will start conducting a survey of Fiji's Great Sea Reef.
© WWF / Cat Holloway
Suva, Fiji - WWF is embarking on a two-week survey of the Cakaulevu Reef, off the Fijian island of Vanua Levu, believed to be the third largest barrier reef in the world. 
 
The Cakaulevu Reef, otherwise known as the Great Sea Reef, is considered by scientists and environmentalists to be globally important in terms of its biodiversity. Measuring 150km long, the reef is one of the largest areas of continuous coral reef habitats and is home to thousands of marine species, many of them endemic.

There is, however, little understanding of the reef's ecology and the value it provides to local communities in terms of food and supporting livelihoods. Over the years, the coral reef and marine resources have come under ever increasing pressure from local and commercial users.

“The Cakaulevu Reef is one of Fiji’s hidden gems and it is essential that we find out how we can manage it more effectively and how the people can conserve their resources and their livelihoods in the long-term," said Etika Rupeni, WWF's Country Programme Manager in Fiji.  
 
"The survey is a wonderful opportunity for scientists, environmentalists, government, and local communities to work together to assure the health of the reef in the long term."  
 
WWF, in collaboration with other organizations, will survey the marine life of the Great Sea Reef and adjacent areas including assessing the diversity and abundance of fish, corals, invertebrates, and algae. The team will also assess the level of damage to the coral reef from storms, fishing, climate change, and sediment run off from the land.  

The survey outcomes will be used to guide the selection of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) across the Great Sea Reef and outlying areas, and will provide information on how the Great Sea Reef compares with other reef systems around the world. 

"The community is grateful for this support," said local community leader Ratu Aisea Katonivere. "We hope it will begin the journey to bring back the richness of these once plentiful waters...not only for ourselves, but also for our children."  

Notes:

* The Great Sea Reef survey will take place from 5–16 December 2004.

* Fiji comprises about 844 islands and islets, and is thought to include over 10,000km2 of reef. The Fiji Barrier Reef marine ecoregion includes a diversity of marine habitats, including estuaries, mangrove communities, sea grass beds, macroalgal assemblages, and sand and mudflats. An abundance of coral life thrives throughout in the form of fringing, platform, patch, barrier, oceanic ribbon, and atoll reefs.

* Research has recorded close to 300 species of coral, over 475 species of molluscs, and almost 2,000 fish species, although the actual number of species of fish and coral is likely to be much greater. 

* WWF, together with Wetlands International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, the Institute of Applied Sciences at the University of the South Pacific, and Fiji's Ministry of Fisheries, will bring together a team of 20 divers for the expedition, including regional scientists.

* WWF South Pacific, based in Suva, has been involved in marine conservation in Fiji since 1997. The Fiji marine programme currently focuses on work with policy makers and with local resource owning communities. WWF has been engaged in extensive consultation to ensure the full participation and commitment of relevant stakeholders toward the development and implementation of a shared vision for the ecoregion. WWF also focuses on community mobilization and capacity building for MPA management, biodiversity assessments and monitoring, policy analysis and design, advocacy for a legal structure supporting MPAs, and alternative livelihoods. 
 
For further information:
Etika Rupeni, Fiji Country Programme Manager
WWF South Pacific Programme Office
Tel: +679 331 5533
E-Mail: erupeni@wwfpacific.org.fj

Kesaia Tabunakawai, Conservation Director
WWF South Pacific Programme Office
Tel: +679 331 5533
E-Mail: ktabunakawai@wwfpacific.org.fj
Divers will start conducting a survey of Fiji's Great Sea Reef.
© WWF / Cat Holloway Enlarge