Fiji shark conservation helps


This video says about itself:

Bull Shark feeding in Fiji – Benedict Cumberbatch narrates, South Pacific – BBC

Dec 26, 2012

Fishermen of Fiji make more money feeding sharks for tourists then killing the sharks and selling the meat. The divers at Bega Lagoon get a rare treat as a massive bull shark, nicknamed Scarface, comes to feed.

From Wildlife Extra:

Fiji Marine reserve ‘swarming with sharks’

Study by WCS and University of Western Australia finds reef sharks two to four times more abundant in a marine reserve compared to nearby fished areas

July 2013. Fiji’s largest marine reserve contains more sharks than surrounding areas that allow fishing, evidence that marine protected areas can be good for sharks, according to researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Western Australia.

2-400% more sharks

In a study of the no-take reserve’s shark populations, the researchers found that the number of sharks in Namena Reserve-located on the southern coast of Fiji’s Vanua Levu Island-is two to four times greater than in adjacent areas where fishing is permitted.

The researchers conducted their study during a three-week period in 2009 in Namena, a 60-square-kilometer reserve established in 1997 and managed by local communities. In order to survey the sharks, Goetze and the WCS Fiji team used stereo baited remote underwater video systems to record data at eight sites within the reserve and eight outside the reserve at both shallow and deeper depths (between 5-8 metres, and 25-30 metres respectively).

“The study not only provides evidence that Fiji’s largest marine reserve benefits reef sharks, but achieves this in a non-destructive manner using novel stereo video technology,” said Goetze, the lead author of the paper.

Five different species of reef shark

The 60-minute video segments taken captured images of five different species of reef shark, providing the researchers with data on shark abundance. In addition, Goetze and the research team also were able to estimate the length and size of the sharks whenever the animals were within eight metres of the camera, enabling them to generate estimates on biomass for Namena Reserve.

Fewer sharks in fishing zones

Outside the reserve, in areas where fishing is permitted, the researchers found fewer sharks. The researchers note that, because local Fiji communities traditionally considered sharks to be sacred, eating them is typically taboo. The most likely driver of higher shark densities within the reserve, assert the authors, is the significantly higher availability of prey fish that WCS researchers have found within the reserve boundaries compared with adjacent areas.

As demand for shark products grows, higher prices are driving some locals to catch sharks, while Fiji shark populations are also vulnerable to foreign fishing fleets. Worldwide, increasing rates of harvesting are leading to the depletion of many of the world’s shark species.

Positive effect of marine reserves

“The news from Fiji gives us solid proof that marine reserves can have positive effects on reef shark populations,” said Dr. Caleb McClennen, Director of WCS’s Marine Program. “Shark populations are declining worldwide due to the demand for shark products, particularly fins for the Asian markets. We need to establish management strategies that will protect these ancient predators and the ecosystems they inhabit.”

The study was made possible by the generous support of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and the University of Western Australia (UWA) Marine Science Honours program.

The study appears in a recent edition of the journal Coral Reefs. The authors include: Jordan Goetze of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Western Australia; and Laura Fullwood of the University of Western Australia.

Fiji birds, new report


This video is called Birds of Fiji.

From BirdLife:

State of Fiji’s birds report launched

Fri, May 31, 2013

Fiji’s first ever State of Birds report ‘Fiji: State of Birds 2013’ has been launched by NatureFiji-MareqetiViti with the assistance of BirdLife International, the Department of the Environment and local ornithologists.

Birds are by far Fiji’s most conspicuous form of terrestrial wildlife – they are inspirational, they sing, they are fairly easy to observe and identify, and there is a limited number of species.

Biodiversity conservation in Fiji requires the support of landowners and the populace, who can better understand, participate in and support conservation if they are familiar with and knowledgeable about the species of concern.

The new report provides an overview of the issues and critical considerations facing Fiji’s birds and emphasises how useful birds are as flagships for other elements of our biodiversity. Birds have long been used as indicators of the state of the world’s ecosystems, providing insights into habitat loss, deterioration, pollution and, increasingly, for climate change.

All of Fiji’s birds are special but some are particularly important. These are our endemic birds – those that are found only in the Fiji Islands. Fiji has 27 endemic birds, comprising nearly half of our landbirds. There is just one endemic seabird, the Critically Endangered Fiji Petrel.

To emphasise how special our avifauna is, there are few countries in the world with a higher proportion of endemic birds than Fiji. Indeed the island of Kadavu, with four endemic birds, has the highest number of endemic birds per land area in the world.

“While our state of knowledge of Fiji’s birds is better than for many other groups, it is still relatively poor, and we have yet to introduce any form of national monitoring”, said Dick Watling, the report’s author.

“Some species such as the Fiji Petrel and the Red-throated Lorikeet [both Critically Endangered] remain amongst the rarest birds in the world. We have a good idea of the reasons why they are so rare – largely due to invasive predators but there are no national resources to undertake conservation action”.

Migrant shorebirds and voyaging seabirds are a distinctive and culturally important component of the Fijian avifauna. In September each year, the Bar-tailed Godwits arrive at Suva Point. As far as we know, they fly direct from Alaska to Suva, a non-stop journey of eight to nine days. Some fly direct from Alaska to New Zealand, an 11-day non-stop flight.

The migrations that our dilio (Pacific Golden Plover), Bar-tailed Godwits and other shorebirds undertake twice a year are marvels of the natural world.

“Unfortunately, one of the most important feeding sites for these shorebirds – the mudflats of Suva Point are under consideration for reclamation”, noted Dr Watling. “Where then will these shorebirds rest and prepare for their return journey?”

‘Fiji: State of Birds 2013′ is the latest in a growing collection of national BirdLife reports from around the globe. These publications draw on national survey and monitoring data to provide a detailed and authoritative insight into the status of and pressures faced by birds and biodiversity in specific countries, with inspiring examples of conservation actions being undertaken by BirdLife Partners and others.

To download the ’Fiji: State of Birds 2013, please click here (pdf. 4.9 mb). To find out more about BirdLife’s State of the nation’s birds report, please click here.

The British Government have launched a new BirdLife project to conserve Fiji’s forest. “It is a great pleasure for us at the High Commission, together with our partners at BirdLife International, to the launch a new three-year project here in Fiji,” said Mr Dan Salter – Deputy High Commissioner of the United Kingdom to Fiji: here.

Fiji petrel sound discovery


This video is called Search for the Fiji Petrel.

From BirdLife:

A Guitar reveals the call of the Fiji Petrel

Thu, Jan 17, 2013

The 20th confirmed grounding of a Critically Endangered Fiji Petrel occurred on the 13th of November 2012 when a bird was grounded by a fluorescent light in the school compound at Nukuloa primary school, Gau Island, Fiji. Petrel groundings in villages occur only rarely as a result, it is believed, of their being dazzled by lights.

The petrel’s grounding was heard by two young school boys who quickly took it to Eli (Eleazar) O’Connor, the Fiji NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (NFMV) petrel project manager on Gau. Because very little is known of the species, grounded Fiji petrels provide important information on the biology of the bird which contribute to its conservation. The 20th Fiji Petrel was perhaps the most important of all the groundings, as it provided two highly significant bits of information.

First, it proved to be the first unequivocal fledgling Fiji Petrel, one that had just left the burrow and was on its first flight. This gives us a confirmed timing for the breeding season of this species, enabling us to concentrate our searches at a time when we know the bird is present on the island. Until now this was a subject of endless discussion and hypothesis.

But Eli discovered something else of equal importance – he became the first person in the world to hear and record the call of the Fiji Petrel. After careful examination, measurement, banding and photography, Eli placed the petrel in a carton in a secluded spot to rest it before its release. As he commonly does after a stressful day, Eli picked up his guitar and strummed some chords. To his amazement, he was immediately answered by the Fiji Petrel in its carton.

Not believing what he heard, he tried it again, and sure enough there was an answer. And a very strange call it is too! He was able to use the project recording equipment and the first call of the Fiji Petrel is now available for the scientists of the world – a great achievement. Asked to describe the call, Eli could only think of “tuning an old radio” or not unlike R2-D2 of StarWars fame! Certainly nothing like the Collared Petrel calls we commonly hear in the season on Gau.

The recording of the call is a breakthrough for the project as it can now be used in the project’s outdoor petrel call playback sound system which has been set up on the hills of Gau above Nukuloa to attract petrels to nest in artificial nest boxes in an area made safe from predators. This technique has been implemented successfully in Australia and New Zealand to conserve several endangered petrel populations by attracting them to areas free of predators and NFMV is trialling it on Gau to attract the Fiji Petrel, the Collared Petrel and the Polynesian Storm Petrel (the latter having been seen offshore Gau).

All three are globally threatened species. High resolution photographs and measurements of the Fiji petrel were taken by Eli to confirm the age of the bird and hence the breeding season of the species. Which is vital for searches using NFMV’s specially New Zealand trained petrel sniffer dogs. After the species was processed and revealed its call, it was given a band and safely released into an artificial nest box previously set-up on one of the peaks on Gau on the 14th of November 2012. It then departed safely under the cover of darkness. We hope it will return to that nest box.

Nunia Thomas, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti’s Conservation Co-ordinator has been appointed Director, taking charge of Fiji’s most progressive local conservation organisation: here.

Shark Carol’s long journey studied


This video is called Shark Week- Mako Shark’s Speed.

From the New Zealand Herald:

Shark takes long way home

By Jamie Morton

5:30 AM Thursday Nov 29, 2012

Mako‘s journey of 11,300km in just seven months confounds scientist’s expectations.

A shark that swam from New Zealand to Fiji has returned home for Christmas, rounding off an 11,000km odyssey and amazing the scientists who tracked her journey.

In May, “Carol” became the first mako shark in New Zealand waters to be tracked with a satellite “spot” tag, under a Niwa research project funded by the Ministry of Primary Industries and Nova-Southeastern University in Florida.

Scientists watched in amazement as she set off for the Pacific Islands, only to change her mind halfway and turn back for a two-month stay near Ninety Mile Beach.

After a loop around the top of the North Island, the shark again set off for Fiji, reaching her destination in September.

It was what she did next – returning to New Zealand and arriving home only 100km from the spot where she was tagged – that most surprised scientists.

In the space of seven months, the 1.8m shark clocked up more than 11,300km, covering up to 100km a day.

This month, she cruised around the East Cape and was tracked near Mahia a few days ago, probably bound for Napier.

“This shark did some surprising things,” Niwa principal scientist Dr Malcolm Francis said.

“First she headed off toward Fiji, which was kind of what we expected, then she turned around and came back again – which was totally unexpected.”

When she did reach Fiji, it was thought she would stay there for winter.

“We thought she’d only come back when the waters got warmer in summer, but she kind of turned around and came back straight here anyway – and the water wasn’t much warmer than it was when she left.”

With a sample of only one, researchers could draw few conclusions – but Carol’s adventure has changed assumptions about mako behaviour.

“We used to think they disappeared from our waters during autumn, winter and spring and headed off to the tropics,” Dr Francis said.

“We also didn’t know where exactly they went, what route they took and how long it took to get there. This kind of tag gives us several fixes a day.”

More than 60 species of shark are due in New Zealand waters over summer, among them great whites, seven-gills, blue sharks, hammerheads, threshers and the occasional tiger shark.

But humans can expect to see few of these species, as most stay in deep water.

People were more likely to confront the “fish and chip” variety – school and rig sharks – or bigger species such as bronze whalers and basking sharks.

Great whites would roam all around our coastline over summer, especially in areas where they could find food, but sightings were rare.

Where’s Grim?

That’s the question on the mind of Department of Conservation shark expert Clinton Duffy, who hasn’t seen Grim since the island-hopping great white dropped off the radar last year.

Grim, who was a 3m juvenile when tagged off the Stewart Island in 2010 and would likely span 3.5m today, was last seen by Mr Duffy in March last year.

Scientists have tracked him visiting Fiji, Tonga and Niue before Grim sent a signal from the Louisville Seamount chain, northeast of New Zealand, just over year ago.

“I’d love to know where Grim is, but we haven’t heard anything from his tag for a while,” Mr Duffy said.

“We did have a report from a caged diving operation at Stewart Island he was seen in May this year, but that hasn’t been confirmed.”

But with Stewart Island now boasting a summer smorgasbord of seals, Mr Duffy wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where Grim was now.

Fishes saving coral


This video says about itself:

BBC ‘Blue Planet – Deep Trouble’ team explain the environmental dangers facing the world’s shallow waters. With high demands for rare species of fish, coral reefs are in danger of being fished out and deserted.

From Discover Magazine:

Coral Call for Help and Fish Swim to the Rescue

When coral are threatened by encroaching toxic algae, they do not have the luxury of running from their enemy. That is not to say these stationary creatures are defenseless, though. Acropora coral has evolved to emit a chemical call for help, and within minutes, a goby fish will show up on the scene, ready to nibble off the algae. Researchers recently discovered this underwater partnership in the waters near Fiji. They say this symbiotic relationship is the first known example of a species chemically signaling another in order to remove a competitor species.

The fish’s response time is short because the goby fish are never far away from the coral. Nestled in the crevices of the reef, protected from predators, goby fish feast on a smörgåsbord of local fares: coral mucus, algae and zooplankton. In return, the goby is available for minor coral maintenance issues like mowing the toxic algae lawn. This task is pretty simple for the fish—one species of goby observed in this study ate the stuff and another just trimmed it off—and important for the coral.

For a tenant-landlord-style relationship, this one’s pretty amicable.

See also here.