Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shark Reef and the Fiji Shark Corridor

Great Pic: Klaus Jost and yes, that's Predator! Click on it!

From our new website.

Shark Reef Marine Reserve was established in April 2004 and is the first of its kind in Fiji, namely, a protected sanctuary for the Sharks.

We are however aware that modern Conservation guidelines dictate that instead of merely concentrating on trying to save individual species, one must instead focus efforts onto preserving the Ecosystems where they live. With that in mind, our Stewardship is not limited to the Sharks alone but extends to protecting the whole of Shark Reef with all of its inhabitants. Consequently, we have invested considerable resources in order to document its Fish life and the long-term effects of our Conservation efforts.

It is here, in these protected waters that divers can observe and interact with some of the oceans top predators and a multitude of Fish species on The Shark Dive.

Taking Shark diving to the extreme, the regular Shark population comprises 8 different species: Whitetip Reef Sharks, Blacktip Reef Sharks, Grey Reef Sharks, Tawny Nurse Sharks, Sicklefin Lemon Sharks, Silvertip Sharks, Bull Sharks and Tiger Sharks.

If Shark diving is your thing, then Shark Reef Marine Reserve and The Shark Dive are for you!

Shark Reef Marine Reserve is however about much more than just The Shark Dive.

The cornerstone of Shark Reef Marine Reserve are the ongoing research studies in the effort to learn more about these often misunderstood animals and in turn assist in their long-running battle for survival.

Beqa Adventure Divers is proud to be associated with the establishment of Shark Reef Marine Reserve in 2004.

None of this would have been possible without the involvement of the Fiji Department of Fisheries and the traditional owners of the reef, the villages of Wainiyabia and Galoa to whom we extend our special thanks. Both villages have agreed to relinquish their respective fishing rights to Shark Reef and in exchange, every diver who participates on The Shark Dive pays a 'Shark Reef Marine Reserve Levy' of FJ$20. This money is collected by Beqa Adventure Divers and deposited monthly into each village's community bank account.

After 5 years, it is not anymore only a question of providing cash flow to the community: even the initially skeptical 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.

Following the results of our telemetry studies, it became apparent that the relatively small area of Shark Reef would not be sufficient to provide for adequate protection for our larger Sharks that roam a much wider area.

It is thus that in 2007, we have decided to greatly expand the Shark protected area to comprise the complete fishing grounds, or Qoliqoli of the two original partnering villages and the village of Deuba, once again with the formal endorsement of Government.

The such established Fiji Shark Corridor stretches for approx. 30 miles on the southern coast of Viti Levu all the way from the Navua river to the limit with Waidroka and includes the MPAs of Shark Reef, Lake Reef and our upcoming Combe Reef Marine Reserve, along with all other fringing reefs in the area, all the way to the foreshore.

One of the toughest tasks facing Shark Reef Marine Reserve, or any protected area, is to stop illegal fishing.

In April 2004, Beqa Adventure Divers sponsored the training of 12 Fish Wardens from the local community: 2 each from Waniyabia, Galoa, Beqa Island, Yanuca Island, Waidroka, Navua and staff members of Beqa Adventure Divers. The training program, conducted by the Government of Fiji, has allowed the community to monitor their protected waters as the Fish Wardens are attached to the Fisheries Department and have police powers to stop any illegal activities. We have doubled up our efforts and as of March 2009, all of our staff are officially empowered to protect the waters around Pacific Harbour!

To carry the Fish Wardens out to patrol the protected waters, The Shark Foundation in Switzerland has donated a boat to Shark Reef Marine Reserve, Reef Warden, in 2004. Following the arrival of our second Bladerunner, MV Hunter, Reef Warden has been sold and the money re-directed to research.

The boat and crew are on call 24hrs a day and perform random patrols to ensure no fishing is taking place.

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