The first ever comprehensive survey of Fiji’s largely uncharted Great Sea Reef, the world’s third longest barrier reef, has revealed a staggering array of life, including a new species of reef fish, World Wildlife Fund announced Thursday.
The 12-day expedition 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 hard corals.
“The Great Sea Reef, locally known as Cakaulevu, is a global treasure,” said Kate Newman, WWF’s Director of Marine Ecoregion Programs.
“Covering more than 77,000 square miles, the reef is home to thousands of marine species – many of which are endemic – and it is a vital fishing ground for local communities.”
The survey, conducted by WWF with local and international experts and community members, also identified significant threats to the Great Sea Reef, including over fishing and poaching by illegal fishers, poison fishing, sand dredging and other development activities.
In recognition of the global importance of the Reef, the local chiefs are today launching the first of the country’s networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on the Great Sea Reef, which include permanent ‘tabu’ zones, where no fishing or harvesting of other marine resources can take place.
“The people of Macuata province are working closely with WWF and the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas network (FLMMA) to protect this unique marine environment.” said Etika Rupeni, WWF Fiji’s Country Program Manager.
“Protecting the Great Sea Reef will ensure that one of our greatest assets remains intact and continues to be an important part of the traditions, culture and livelihoods of the people of Fiji.”
The Great Sea Reef conservation effort delivers on Fiji’s commitment to establish an MPA Network covering 30 per cent of the country’s waters by 2020. Fiji’s commitment to manage 147,000 square miles of its water as MPAs, will make it one of the largest MPA networks in the world.
WWF is this week presenting its Conservation Leadership Award to Fiji’s government and the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas network (FLMMA), who will be acknowledged for their commitment to the sustainable management of Fiji’s natural resources.