Wednesday, 10 September 2008

WWF launches 2 marine reports

9 February, 2007. Suva, Fiji Islands - The Fiji Islands Marine Ecoregion (FIME) and Great Sea Reef (GSR) Survey Reports were launched today at an evening function hosted by WWF’s Fiji Country Programme (WWF FCP). Mr. Tomasi Vakatora, Deputy Chairman of Vodafone’s ATH Fiji Foundation and guest speaker for the evening, officially made these 2 reports publicly available, thanking all partners for their contribution to the project.
Setting Priorities for Marine Conservation in the Fiji Islands Marine Ecoregion:

» Download the report
FIJI'S GREAT SEA REEF: The first marine biodiversity survey of Cakaulevu and associated coastal habitats

» Download the report
In December 2003, over 80 scientists, community members, non government organization (NGO) representatives and government administrators and decision makers, shared current scientific information on the biodiversity of and threats to Fiji’s marine environment. The report: Setting Priorities for Marine Conservation in the Fiji Islands Marine Ecoregion identifies 35 priority conservation areas which were agreed to by these stakeholders. The 35 areas attempt to capture the full range of marine biodiversity, species and communities that make FIME unique. If conserved, these areas contribute to maintaining the integrity of Fiji’s marine systems.

In 2004, Vodafone ATH Fiji Foundation provided funding to WWF FCP and its partners to undertake a survey of the Great Sea Reef, the third longest barrier reef system in the world and one of the 35 priority conservation areas indentified. This survey is the first ever systematic effort to document the marine biodiversity of this reef known locally as Cakaulevu. Findings of the survey include the GSR having 55% of the known coral reef fish in Fiji; 74% of the known coral species in Fiji; 40% of all known marine flora in Fiji and 44% of Fiji’s endemic reef species. These and other remarkable findings are documented in the report: Fiji’s Great Sea Reef - The first marine biodiversity survey of Cakaulevu and associated coastal habitats.

The findings of the survey have provided part of the building block to the Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) initiative - a partnership between Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) as the lead, WWF FCP, Wetlands International - Oceania (WI-O), the University of the South Pacific (USP) and in association with the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas (FLMMA). The EBM area extends from Macuata through the Bua Peninsula to Kubulau. This initiative aims to protect the marine environment by addressing land-based threats to coral reefs and other marine habitats.

80% of Fiji’s population live within 5 kilometers of the coast and depend heavily on their reefs as a primary source of protein.
80% of Fiji’s population live within 5 kilometers of the coast and depend heavily on their reefs as a primary source of protein. Functioning marine systems and productive fisheries are vitally important - they are the key source of food, income, employment, foreign exchange and cultures. WWF FCP’s March/April 2006 socio economic survey in the Dreketi, Macuata, Sasa and Mali districts - part of the EBM initiative - showed that 100% of households earn income from their natural resources (marine, freshwater, forest and agriculture). Of these households, 75% depend on these natural resource harvests as their main source of income. Local community residents of these districts traditionally fish two thirds of the Vanua Levu portion of the GSR. The Reef is therefore a major part of living their life and sourcing their livelihood. The survey will contribute to better use planning of these collective inshore marine resources.

Information from this survey has also influenced the management of the GSR system. A number of community-based marine protected areas have been set up in a portion of the surveyed area. These areas provide for the restocking of the wider coastal marine area in the Macuata waters for fishing.

“These reports contribute to the larger knowledge base of the nation’s marine and coral reef systems and add further insights into these nature treasures. This will guide us to better management for the benefit of people relying on marine resources in these waters.”

- Ms Kesaia Tabunakawai, WWF FCP Manager
For further information:
Kesaia Tabunakawai, Manager WWF FCP, (t) +679 331 5533
Aaron Jenkins, Senior Programme Officer, Wetlands International - Oceania Office, (t) +679 332 2413
Kathy Walls, Director WCS-South Pacific Country Programme, (t) +679 331 5174

Editor’s notes:
Fiji’s marine and reef system is relatively unknown. Records show that Fiji holds an enormous wealth in coral reef habitats, covering an estimated 10,020 sq km of the archipelago representing 9% of the coral reef systems of the Pacific and 3.5% of the total area of tropical coral reefs in the world.
Further findings and observations of the GSR survey include:
  • Populations of 12 species listed on the 2004 IUCN(World Conservation Union) Red List of Threatened Species, including 10 species of fish, the IUCN threatened green turtle and the spinner dolphin.
  • Populations of the nationally endangered species of Bumphead Parrotfish (Kalia), previously presumed locally extinct; one new fish species and one presumed new record, previously known from the Indian ocean, 44% of the endemic coral fish species were observed.
  • Within the hard corals, 43 new records were documented for Fiji. Of these, two were new genera, and three are believed to be geographic range extensions.
  • Sixteen species were found to be new additions to the flora of the Fiji archipelago. Two possible new species were also recorded.
  • Unusual distant offshore mangrove island fringing reef habitats were found to be of surprisingly high diversity and productivity. These highly dynamic, tidally influenced systems are considered to be “keystone habitats” of crucial importance to maintaining the ecological integrity of the entire coastline.
  • Overall, commercially important fish were found in very low numbers and small sizes. Fish important to local subsistence were found in higher numbers, but this varied greatly from site to site. Fishing pressure, as indicated by discarded fishing lines, was greatest around the vicinity of Labasa.
Source: WWF Fiji