2006/03/22

The Great Sea Reef

When asked to think of a great reef, what comes to mind? The Great Barrier Reef of Australia of course, the world's largest. But after that I think we start floundering (pardon the fish pun) to name another.

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.

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New Damselfish - photo by Helen Sykes/WWF


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.

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In this picture of Fiji from space, Cakaulevu Reef can be seen in the top center area.


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.

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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."

8 comments:

Robin said...

thanks for sharing this.

I was in Cairns few years ago and I see the commercial expliotation of such a wonder of nature.

I am glad at least someone is thinking about conservation in Fiji.

@ロウ 。LOW@ said...

Surrounded by thousand of islands, there is no surprise to find some of the largest barrier reef around Asia-Ocenia region. In whatever case Fiji's economy will still depends heavily on foreign exchange earning, fisheries and tourism.

They say you can get billion of dollars, in no time at all, if you found a new crude oil source. But money for conservation are always difficult to come by.

Let's hope this piece of news is strong start for conservation, not tourism, or the Damselfish hunter.

Happysurfer said...

Conservation efforts are commendable and much needed to protect nature's wonders from Man's careless and unscrupulous ways.

The Damselfish, hmmmm... I wonder how did they come up with this name.

Thank you for sharing, Pandabonium.

peceliandwendy said...

Nice to see your pics and info about the great reef along the Macuata coastline. I posted two pieces on the same story in babasiga. Tui Macuata is an unusual man and good luck to him. I can't post for a few days, a crook phone interferes with my dial-up.
W.

Pandabonium said...

Thanks all. It amazes me sometimes how so many "ordinary" people get it when it comes to conservation, but big business and the governments they own (did I say that?) don't seem to care.

Fiji has a great opportunity here I am glad to see some leadership in this area.

W - those are good articles on your blog. I am mystified as to how I missed them as I have read previous and later ones. Guess I don't check in as often as I should. Good luck with your phone line.

Lrong said...

Don't know about the Mesoamerican reef but I am moving to Fiji tomorrow!! For good!

Pandabonium said...

Lrong - they've really been doing more and more to preserve what they have and that's great. Hopefully it will mean a beautiful environment and sustainable fisheries for future generations. I just noticed I don't have your blog linked - will take care of that right away. :)

fullmoon said...

Thanks so much for sharing it. There is indeed a great need to protect such wonderful nature heritage that we have. Well managed tourism is one way. Often in Southeast Asia I saw lots of reef destruction on my kayak trips. It pained me.