The second largest barrier reef is the Mesoamerican reef along the east coast of Central America. Most people have not heard of it, but would not be surprised after a moment's thought.
Third largest? Africa? India? South America? Nope. Would you believe it is in Fiji? Believe it or not, it's true. The Cakaulevu Reef of Fiji (the "C" is pronounced like "th" in Fijian), also known as the "Great Sea Reef" is the third largest barrier reef system in the world covering an area of over 200,000 sq.km. (77,000 square miles). It is home to thousands of species of marine animals and many of them are found nowhere else on our precious planet.
Fiji's Great Sea Reef is not well studied, and a recent 12-day survey revealed a staggering array of life, including a new species of reef fish. Scientists on the survey, led by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), recorded a new species of damselfish (Pomacentrus sp.), unique mangrove island habitats, several threatened species including green turtles and spinner dolphins, as well marine life not previously recorded in Fiji's waters. This included 43 new records of known hard corals.
The reef stretches along the north shore of Vanua Levu Island, Fiji's second largest. It has been subject to poaching, overfishing, sand dredging and other destructive activities in the past. Eighty percent of Fiji's population lives along the coastlines and their livelihood depends on the sea. To protect this important reef, the local chiefs have begun to implement a system of waitui tabu, areas where fishing is prohibited. By 2020 they hope to have about 30 percent of the reef designated as Marine Protected Areas. This is backed up by stiff fines on any poachers and enforcement at sea. The first area under protection is in the north eastern section of the reef.
Ratu Aisea Katonivere, a self-described “conservation convert,” is the paramount chief of the province of Macuata on Vanua Levu. He is also the Roko Tui Macuata (Roko Tui signifying a government position), responsible for Fijian administration in the province. His area comprises 110,000 people living in 117 coastal and inland villages, including Labasa, one of the largest towns in Fiji (and one of the homes of Peceli and Wendy's blog "Babasiga").
Ratu Aisea said of the new protected areas, "We hope it will begin the journey to bring back the richness of these once plentiful waters - not only for ourselves, but also for our children."