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Team Effort Leads to Fiji’s Largest Nationwide Assessment of Coral Reefs


Salome Tuimaloku from the Ministry of Fisheries, takes photos to create 3-D imagery of a coral reef. Photo by Joe Lepore, Waitt Institute


Suva, Fiji - The largest nationwide assessment of Fiji’s coral reefs has successfully

concluded after 9 weeks of dive surveys. Divers studied coral reef habitats at 272

locations across the country and encountered almost 500 different species of fish,

highlighting Fiji’s rich and diverse marine life.

  • Phase one surveyed 95 sites in the areas of Viti Levu, Beqa, Yanuca, Western Lomaiviti and the Yasawa group of islands

  • Phase two surveyed 99 sites in the areas of Eastern Lomaiviti, Vanua Levu and Taveuni

  • Phase three surveyed 78 sites in the Lau Seascape

“This expedition has been a truly collaborative effort involving many Government

Ministries, NGOs partners, communities, and international scientists. We have all

come together as a team and pulled off the best and biggest national science

expedition to ever take place in Fiji.” said the Minister of Fisheries and Forestry,

Honourable Kalaveti Ravu.



Locations of the 272 dive sites surveyed during the expedition.


“The completion of the Blue Prosperity Fiji Ocean Science Expedition is a historic

moment for Fiji and will greatly improve our understanding of the current condition of our coral reefs. This study will provide the Government the tools to better manage

our ocean, and also provide communities with concrete information to understand

what lies below our waters.” said Blue Prosperity Fiji Country Manager, Arthur Sokimi.


The expedition began with community consultations to over 100 qoliqoli owners and

communities to request permission to survey their waters.


“Through the leadership and support of the Ministry of Fisheries and Forestry, and

the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs, this was a transparent process and we visited coastal

communities to present sevusevu to seek permission for research to take place in

their waters. This also gave us the space to listen to their needs and priorities,” said

Dr. Joeli Veitayaki, Co-Primary Investigator of the Blue Prosperity Fiji Ocean Science

Expedition.



Community meeting in Nacula, Yasawa, to present sevusevu and request permission for the expedition dives. Photo by Arthur Sokimi, Blue Prosperity Fiji.


Throughout the expedition, teams of divers collected information on coral reef

health, fish and macroinvertebrates, and water quality. Teams also placed 88

temperature loggers across Fiji to better track ocean temperatures through time.


Data collected will provide holistic information about Fiji's current coral reef health.

However, data collected will not provide a stock assessment for any specific marine

species or resource.


“The learnings from this expedition will build upon, not replace, extensive traditional

and scientific knowledge and existing monitoring and research efforts in Fiji. We

have collected a wealth of new information about Fiji’s marine life and resources,

now we will work with our partners to process and analyze the data and ensure that

all relevant information is shared with the public,” said Andrew Estep, Science

Director at the Waitt Institute.


This effort was led by the Government of Fiji, with guidance from the Office of the

Prime Minister through the Department of Environment and the Climate Change

Division, Ministry of Fisheries, and the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs, working in close

collaboration with universities and non-governmental organizations. Organizations

included in the planning and execution are the University of the South Pacific (USP)

Institute of Applied Sciences, World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), Conservation

International (CI), the Pacific Community (SPC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS),

Uto Ni Yalo (UNY), Pacific Blue Foundation (PBF), Centre for Island Research and

Environmental Observatory (CRIOBE), Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the

Waitt Institute.


This science expedition is part of the Blue Prosperity Fiji program, a partnership

between the Government of Fiji and the Waitt Institute to support 100% sustainable

ocean management and fully protect at least 30% of Fiji’s waters. Information

collected will help inform future ocean planning efforts and research.


“I feel lucky to have witnessed the incredible marine life and diversity we have in Fiji,

but was saddened to see damage on our reefs, such as coral bleaching, damage

from storms, and areas without much fish. This reminds us of the urgent need to

proactively manage our ocean and protect at least 30% of our waters so that we can

preserve the treasures we have in our country.” added Arthur Sokimi, Blue Prosperity

Fiji Country Manager.



Feather star in the Lau Province. Photo by Joe Lepore.


“The most touching part was the chance to work together, share ideas, and build

capacity. I hope going forward we can continue collaboration to ensure we leave

behind an ocean that is productive and healthy for the benefit of future generations,”

said Dr. Joeli Veitayaki, Blue Prosperity Fiji Ocean Science Expedition’s Co-Primary

Investigator.



Divers on the Blue Prosperity Fiji Ocean Science Expedition. Photo by Joe Lepore, Waitt Institute.


Learn more at blueprosperityfiji.org and follow the programme’s Facebook and

Instagram @blueprosperityfiji for updates.



Please credit photos to the photographer and organisation.

Underwater photos by Joe Lepore, Waitt Institute

Drone photos by Andrew Estep, Waitt Institute

Community photos by Arthur Sokimi, Blue Prosperity Fiji


About Blue Prosperity Fiji

Blue Prosperity Fiji is a programme to support a healthy ocean, thriving

communities, and prosperous economies in Fiji. The programme will focus on

protecting ocean habitats while supporting ocean industries and sustainable

fisheries. Led by the Government of Fiji, the Blue Prosperity Fiji programme will

incorporate community consultations, scientific research, and traditional knowledge

to sustainably manage Fiji's ocean.


Media Inquiries:


Ellen Spooner

Blue Prosperity Fiji Media and Strategic Communications Manager

+1 (520) 429-5828

espooner@waittinstitute.org


Arthur Sokimi

Blue Prosperity Fiji Country Manager

+679 (732) 7333

asokimi@blueprosperityfiji.org



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