Friday, December 05, 2008

Fare well, Reef Warden

Insiders know that we're all about Shark Conservation.

In fact, the Dive Shop is merely an extension of Fiji's first Marine Park dedicated to the protection of Sharks, Shark Reef Marine Reserve.
The Fiji Shark Project hinges on the concept that successful and above all, enduring Conservation requires that the Stakeholders be fairly compensated for any resulting loss of income. Beqa Adventure Divers is the vehicle by which we can generate the required cash flow to do just that.

When pondering about the best way to go ahead, it became instantly clear that one of the main challenges we would face was going to be, to successfully enforce the fishing ban.
We thus decided to sponsor the training of a dozen local Fish Wardens by the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries, two of which, Papa and Tevita, we employ. In fact, having established the Fiji Shark Corridor, we're about to process another batch in order to reflect the joining in of Deuba Village.
Fish Wardens are like Game Keepers: they are empowered by Government to police, enforce, search, impound and arrest and can avail themselves of the help by the Disciplined Forces like the Police and the Navy.

To round things up, the Swiss-based Shark Foundation generously sponsored the purchase of a special-purpose fast skiff which we named "Reef Warden" and have since maintained and used for patrolling the Reserve. The regular patrols and a couple of "incidents" ranging from stern warnings all the way to temporary arrests and the confiscation of illegal catches have sent the message that Big Brother is watching and we're reasonably confident that poaching, if any, is minimal.

In fact, after 5 years, the fishermen love us to death, as the Reserve has become saturated with big Fish and the resulting spillover has lead to substantially increased fishing yields on the neighboring unprotected reefs. It thus really looks like we've managed to create a win-win situation for everybody involved and that the local community has learned to respect and appreciate what we do.

With that in mind, Reef Warden was definitely becoming under-utilised, a bad thing for a boat that is best kept in constant motion. Also, our newly commissioned second hydrofoil catamaran MV Hunter has proven to be a superior patrolling craft in terms of comfort, eco-friendliness, running cost and speed. Having consulted the Foundation, it was resolved to sell Reef Warden and to re-invest the proceeds into other Foundation projects in Fiji, likely a new set of experiments by our indefatigable Juerg. Reef Warden has now left us for what we hope will be a new, exciting career skimming the azure waters of Beqa Lagoon.

We will miss the pretty, elegant lady.
Moce Mada, Reef Warden, and may Dakuwaqa always protect you!

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