Vatuvara Private Islands and the Vatuvara Foundation will be partnering with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to conduct baseline surveys in the northern Lau Group to assess the health of diverse coral and fish communities, 12 months after Cyclone Winston. This will be the first scientific survey to be carried out by the Vatuvara Foundation in these waters.

Vatuvara Private Islands, a luxury resort located in Northern Lau, is committed to preserving the environment through the Vatuvara Foundation with the aim to protect and revive ocean conservation in Northern Lau through a network of community locally managed marine areas and provide innovative solutions that promote awareness and empower local communities.

A team made up of fish and coral experts will be undertaking surveys from 8‒16 May, 2017 on coral reefs around Kaibu, Kanacea, Vatuvara, Yacata and Adavaci Islands, in Lau and Cakaudrove Provinces. Local scientists will collect baseline data on the abundance and diversity of corals and fish species, as well as key invertebrates such as sea cucumbers which are an important source of livelihood for local communities. The data will be shared back with the local communities and used to help establish locally managed marine areas around the islands to support food security and sustainable livelihoods of the people.

Dr Sangeeta Mangubhai, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society stated “Partnerships between the private sector and local communities that support strong social and ecological outcomes are unique and should be fostered in Fiji. We are excited to support the Vatuvara Private Islands and Vatuvara Foundation to help collect data that will be used for the long-term monitoring of these important coral reef systems in Fiji.”

A separate team comprising of representatives from the Ministry of Fisheries, Cakaudrove Provincial Office, WCS and the Vatuvara Foundation, recently returned after carrying out community visits in Yacata on 18-19 April, 2017 to provide general awareness on natural resource management, conducted participatory mapping of community land and sea resources, and to learn about traditional knowledge and practices in these islands.

Katy Miller, Director of the Vatuvara Foundation stated “We hope to help communities manage their natural resources, and these baseline surveys play a vital part in this. The Pacific Ocean is our home and we need to collectively work together, to better look after our oceans for future generations to come.”

The team will be live blogging their discoveries from the field and the results of the socioeconomic and biological surveys will be compiled into a report that will be available to the public.