By: Watisoni Lalavanua

Over the past two weeks, local scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have been assessing the impact of cyclone Winston on fisheries in the provinces of Ra and Bua. Last week the team was in Bua with divers from the Namena Dive Resort to assess the state of the reefs in Kubulau’s traditional fishing ground (qoliqoli), including the Namena Marine Reserve.

The reserve was initially set-up by the communities of Kubulau after observing a decline in their fish stocks. Building on a strong foundation of scientific knowledge and combining it to local traditional ecological knowledge the communities of Kubulau now have a network of marine protected areas, including the Namena Marine Reserve.

Yashika Nand collected data on coral cover, diversity, and coral community composition, with assistance from a Fijian volunteer, Unaisi Dokomusu, while Waisea Naisilisili recorded the species, sizes and abundance of coral reef fish that are important to local communities.

Concurrently, Jordan Goetz and Lizzy Myers from University of Western Australia partnered with WCS staff Sirilo “Didi” Dulunaqio to conduct shark surveys along the Kubulau reef. The shark assessment is part of a Global FinPrint project which is collecting data on important shark areas around the globe to contribute to efforts to protect sharks and support in the recovery of declining shark populations. The Global FinPrint project will bring together existing Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) datasets and collect new data from critical sites that will be merged into a single analysis, producing the first globally standard survey of elasmobranch diversity and abundance over the world’s continental and insular shelves, with a key focus on coral reef ecosystems (defined here as the coral reef and associated shallow habitats, such as seagrasses). This large-scale effort will seek to fill the knowledge gaps in human impacts, habitat use and baseline abundance, aiding management and conservation efforts for elasmobranchs.

The team will be live blogging from the field, sharing results when they can. Feel free to email us questions if you have any.

#supportVatu-i-Ra Seascape