This month, Global Vision International (GVI) Fiji’s Marine Research and Conservation team were involvemed in the Great Fiji Shark Count. The Great Fiji Shark Count encourages dive operators/ companies to record any sightings of sharks, turtles or rays whilst out snorkelling, scuba diving or fishing in Fiji.
The GVI Marine team have incorporated this practise into our daily research and conservation work. Each day we log between two to three dives at selected dive sites in the Yasawas. During the dives we make note of any sightings of sharks, turtles or rays, which species they were and how many of each were seen. All data is recorded into a provided log book along with other information such as the site name, the date, the time we entered and exited the water, water temperature, water visibility, the maximum depth we reached, the habitat type (high profile reef, low profile reef, sloping drop off, wall, ledge ect) whether anyone was seen spear fishing at the site, whether there was any food added to the water to attract fish, if any sharks were seen mating and if three or more baby sharks were spotted.
Globally, up to 90 million sharks are estimated to be killed every year. Commercial fishing (shark finning) is the number one cause for the alarmingly high number of deaths per year, as the demand for shark fins (used in the “delicacy” shark fin soup) in heavily increasing particularly in the Asian markets. Over the past few years alone it is estimated that shark populations have declined by 70 – 90%, with such high percentages having devastating effects on our marine ecosystems.
Sharks are highly mobile, only a few are seen at one time, making shark population data quite difficult to collect. This is where the help of local communities/ companies such as GVI come into play. Also known as “Citizen Science” by having lots of eyes surveying a large number of reefs data is able to be collected across the whole of Fiji, in turn creating the first real picture of how many sharks there are in Fiji and which species live where.
Collecting real and accurate data on Fiji shark populations is essential for the adequate management of the species, and the information collected through The Great Fiji Shark Count plays a huge role in supplying this data, not only for Fiji but also for global surveys.
Mads & Jade (Marine Expedition volunteers)