Findings of Fiji’s first ocean expedition in more than a century, which will inform the country of the health of its ocean amongst other things, will not be known for at least a year, Director of Fishieries, Neomai Turaganivalu-Ravitu said.
In an interview with Pasifika Environews at the inaugural Pacific Islands Conference on Ocean Science and Management in Nadi, Ms Turaganivalu-Ravitu said a total of 272 sites across Fiji except for parts of the Coral Coast, Kadavu and Rotuma were surveyed.
During the survey, divers observed at least 500 species of fish while there were some areas where there was no fish at all.
Ms Turaganivalu-Ravitu said there could be various reasons as to why there was low fish population such as damaged coral reef ecosystems, but the final report of the expedition would provide concrete answers on the health of the ocean.
The survey was conducted in three phases over nine weeks and surveyed coral ecosystems and reefs, fish populations, and invertebrate populations. Community consultations with over 100 qoliqoli owners and communities were undertaken prior to the survey seeking their permission to survey their waters.
“The data from the survey will support coastal marine planning..through these insights, decision makers will be better equipped to make or craft effective marine spatial plans. For Fiji.
“Furthermore, the knowledge that’s gained from the survey will guide Fiji in determining impactful actions that support ocean health, food security, community livelihoods, and of course sustainable management of our marine resources.
“What is more special out of this work is that we will be able to use the data to inform communities on the status of their reefs and the resources that they are dependent on.”
Dr Joeli Veitayaki who is part of the project said the information from the survey will also Fiji’s blue economy aspirations.
“Getting the information available to the communities is significant because it can support some of the initiatives that they would like to go with. And of course, this information will also support our commitment to ensure sustainable fisheries use in our waters,” he added.
Dr Veitayaki said they would also try to compare the first survey conducted in the 1800s with the latest survey.
The ocean expedition was a joint effort between the Fiji Government, University of the South Pacific (USP), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Conservation International (CI), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Pacific Blue Foundation (PBF), Uto Ni Yalo (UNY), Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Waitt Institute.