Bula from Fiji!

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (KSLOF) has returned to Fiji! We’re here to help our partners at the Pacific Blue Foundation (PBF) survey reefs in Beqa Lagoon and share our findings from the Global Reef Expedition with traditional leaders and conservation organizations working to set up a large marine protected area (MPA) in Lau Province.

Our primary reason for returning to Fiji is to help our partners at Pacific Blue Foundation with the Beqa Lagoon Seascape. The Pacific Blue Foundation is a non-profit based in Fiji that uses a socio-ecological systems approach to conserve biological and cultural diversity while sustainably managing the natural resources of the marine, coastal and terrestrial environments. 

PBF uses a community-driven approach to preserve marine resources on a seascape-scale in Fiji. Their goal is to create management strategies that achieve ecosystem integrity, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable natural resource use over the long-term. The Pacific Blue Foundation supports local communities in establishing locally managed marine areas (LMMAs), restoring critical habitats, and enhancing the health of ecosystems. They monitor success by using a range of consistent indicators of ecosystem health and community well-being.

The Pacific Blue Foundation is actively working on re-surveying coral reefs in Beqa Lagoon to assess the status of the reef community. It is in this capacity that I have been asked by PBF to help with leading the rapid reef assessments, which includes recording fish and invertebrate species, benthic and coral cover percentages, coral health indices, and photo transects. The last time PBF surveyed these sites was in 2017. We have returned to see how the reefs have changed since then and establish new long-term coral reef monitoring sites. Our survey sites are in three different Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas (FLMMAs) called Tabu. The local villages keep these areas protected to allow reef fish to reach the proper size for reproduction, and to ensure corals are not damaged from boat moorings. Conducting regular research and monitoring of these reefs around Beqa Lagoon is critical for assessing the current state of the coral reef community as well as any other environmental stressors that might be putting stress on the reefscape.

Map showing the survey area of Beqa Lagoon in relation to the Fiji mainland and the capital Suva.

But before the research work in Beqa was set to begin, I traveled to capital city of Fiji, Suva to present the Living Ocean Foundation’s findings on the state of their reefs at the Lau Seascape Initiative Planning Retreat. This workshop was hosted by Conservation International and was attended by all the district Chiefs of the Lau Province, their spouses, and their Yaubula (natural resource management) representatives. The goal of this strategic meeting was to review the Lau Seascape roadmap for both ecosystem conservation goals and the establishment of sustainable eco-tourism. The Foundation’s role in these meetings are to inform local stakeholders and regional NGO’s on the coral reef baseline data collected in the past, and how those data are being used currently for coral resilience modeling. 

Alexandra Dempsey presenting on the Global Reef Expedition data and more specifically, on the state of the reefs in Fiji at the Lau Seascape Planning Retreat in Suva. In attendance are the traditional leaders of Lau Province and Pacific Regional leaders of Conservational International.

Using that momentum, the KSLOF and PBF Team will travel to Beqa Island to re-survey coral reef sites in the large lagoon surrounding the island

Stay tuned for more KSLOF updates from our field research in Fiji!

The survey team loading up tanks for our check out dive before we set sail for Beqa Lagoon.

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