Saturday, August 24, 2019

Shark Reef - it's working!

Forget Tumbee and the Bull: we got Fishes, too - click for detail! Great pic by Jayne!

Great News!

The SRMR is continuing to be a success story.
We had heard rumors about poaching in the Reserve, and did embark in a series of aggressive, and also successful patrols together with the good people of the new Department of Inshore Fisheries - and although we are still missing some of the once ubiquitous larger Groupers and Sweetlips, and although some total asshole has poached our biggest Giant Clams, the effects on the reef are nevertheless quite encouraging.

Here is the evidence.
The indefatigable Helen of Marine Ecology Consulting has been tasked to do a survey of several reefs in Serua and Beqa, see the below map - click for detail.

The results are pretty much unequivocal.
The following are unpublished excerpts of her report, reprinted with kind permission.

General reef condition in the area 

Overall, from the perspective of coral cover and diversity, most of the reefs in the Beqa and Serua area are in good condition, and have both a history, and the future prospect, of having some of the highest coral cover in Fiji, showing resilience to, and swift recovery from, crisis events such as elevated water temperatures and cyclones. 

However, the numbers of fish and macro-invertebrates targeted by the subsistence and small-scale commercial fishing industries are much lower than seen in many other comparable areas of the country, and, particularly on the west side of Beqa, near Yanuca Island, were quite starkly low, some of the lowest populations this surveyor has seen in over 20 years of carrying out reef surveys in Fiji.

Algal cover on the reef floors of the west Beqa reefs also correlates with the extremely low number of herbivorous animals such as sea cucumbers, surgeonfish and parrotfish. Such algal films can retard new coral settlement, and suggests that the extreme levels of overfishing in Beqa may very soon be at the point where the overall health of the reefs may become impacted in an irreversible way. 

Effects of Marine Protected Areas  

There were four MPAs within the surveyed reefs, of which two are regularly patrolled and enforced (Shark Reef Marine Reserve SRMR, and the Kauvala Tabu at Lawaki Beach House). The other two are larger, and more distant from the managing communities, so the level of observation and enforcement is uncertain. 

Coral cover and diversity did not seem to be affected by marine protection over fished reefs. Fish and invertebrate levels were low at all sites except the SRMR and, to a lesser extent the Lawaki MPA and one of the two survey sites within the Cavity MPA behind Yanuca Island. The other three MPA survey sites were no better, or in one, case worse, than fished sites, indicating the importance of proper management and enforcement on the success of marine protection.
Please click on the below for detail. 
Of interest, the results for the SRMR are merely from the shallow back of the reef where we actually expect to encounter less Fishes compared to the highly productive frontal reef slope to the deep Beqa Channel where we dive - and yet the Reserve is still a clear standout!

Bingo - remember what I said here?
Convincing some village to declare a tabu is the easy part - but that it is only a start, and after that comes the real heavy lifting. One needs to train fish wardens (we have sponsored 5 courses and trained dozens of people so far), and then one has to engage in regular long-term monitoring and enforcement which is both expensive and bloody frustrating as it consists of tedious night-long patrols where little to nothing ever happens, and this often on the weekends where poaching is traditionally worst. And when you catch someone, the evidence collection and the prosecution are equally time consuming and laborious.
But it simply must be done - especially where one aggregates Fish and Sharks for tourism and has the moral obligation to assume their stewardship as a consequence!

So again, stop lying talking and start doing!
And to you out there: please do your due diligence - especially you clueless and frankly, terminally irritating  foreign chicks who fancy yourselves some sort of thought leaders and commentators of the local shark feeding scene!

Let's go Shark diving - sustainably!


Tom Vierus said...

Hi Mike, great news indeed! Where can I read the full report?

DaShark said...

As far as I know that was for a commissioned EIA = it is not public but the property of who commissioned it!