Over the last few weeks, the marine team at GVI Tovuto Base have divided their time between surveying and training new volunteers. When surveying, we have focused our efforts on collecting data from the reef in front of Naisisili village. This is a recently re-established Tabu area (no fishing zone), the data we are collecting there includes benthic life form transects, invertebrate transects and underwater visual census swims to recorded targeted fish species. This data allows ongoing monitoring of reef health and can show seasonal and spatial trends. This will hopefully show that the Tabu areas are effective when the sites are revisited in one year’s time. The results will be presented to the communities re-assuring them that these areas are beneficial to them as well as to the environment. This makes the surveying extremely worthwhile and fulfilling. In addition to this we are often visited by some of our favourite marine animals such as White Tip reef sharks, Banded Sea Crates, Blue Spotted Stingrays and very rarely Manta Rays. Very exciting for an average days work surveying!
The new intake of volunteers had to work very hard alongside our dive instructor Simon to get PADI certified to Advanced Open Water so marine conservation training could begin. In this new intake, Robert, who works for Conservation International and is a GVI Fiji National Scholar arrived. This scheme has been designed to enable and fund local nationals to participate in our programs and receive relevant training. GVI hope to be able to use their resources to enrich local capacities and provide unique opportunities for local youths.
The more experienced volunteers have been utilised to get the new marine volunteers up to speed with their benthic, invert and fish identification. This is testament to the training we receive when we arrive, as we are now at a level to assist learning and take in water point out dives. As they improve they will pass their tests, as some of them already have, and in a few weeks we will have a large marine team, all capable of surveying. This means large amounts of data can be collected in a short amount of time. This will allow us to complete collecting the baseline data for the Naisisili reef and move on to other tabu areas that also need baseline data collected.
With all this hard work going on, Friday fun dives become extra special with recent opportunistic sightings of Bull Sharks, Bumphead Parrot Fish, Humphead Wrasse, Mantis Shrimp, Green Turtles and, schools of Pickhandle Barracuda all the hard work seems worthwhile as it is this amazing aquatic life that we are striving to protect.
Jimmy Wright, 12 week Marine Research & Conservation Volunteer