Boat in Fiji Photo
Many communities in Fiji rely directly on subsistence fishing to support themselves.
©Stacy Jupiter
Fish in Fiji Photo
More than 1,200 species of reef fish live in the waters around Fiji.
©Stacy Jupiter
Kids in Fiji Photo
WCS conservationists lead educational workshops for school children to teach them how to become stewards of their communities' natural resources.
©Stacy Jupiter
Fiji Marine Program Video
Surrounded by rich culture and marine life of Fiji, the WCS' marine program collaborates with local people to create marine protected areas.

Popular images of Fiji are not far off the mark: Tropical islands set amid glistening, turquoise seas, representing an imagined paradise. A notably beautiful outcropping of islands in the south Pacific, Fiji is inextricably bound to the ocean, both environmentally and culturally. Among its landscape features are scenic, palm-lined beaches, magnificent coral reefs, and related sea grass and mangrove ecosystems.

Fiji’s coral reefs are justifiably renowned worldwide and are among the more diverse and intact in the Pacific Ocean. The country’s strong cultural traditions and system of traditional tenure over reef management, coupled with the national government’s commitment to increasing Fiji’s marine protected areas, offer outstanding opportunities for conservation in the face of persistent challenges besetting marine communities everywhere.

Fast Facts

  • More than 1,200 species of reef fish live in the waters around Fiji, including two recently listed as endangered, the Napoleon wrasse and giant grouper.
  • Fiji’s reefs are home to more than 300 species of hard coral.
  • The diversity of plants and invertebrates in and around Fiji is remarkable: More than 10,000 species, many of which have yet to be described.
  • The Vatu-i-Ra Seascape, southwest of the island of Vanua Levu, features outstanding hard and soft corals, abundant fish, sharks, and other top predators and has a history of conservation commitment and action by local communities.
  • Fiji’s strong conservation traditions, coupled with the fact that oceanfront villages have traditional rights to both coastal waters and adjacent land, have paved the way for integrated conservation efforts addressing both land- and sea-based environmental threats.


For centuries Fiji’s traditional approach to fishing has included “tabu” areas (sites temporarily closed to fishing). But with the proliferation of modern fishing methods, growing coastal populations, and increasing threats to coral reefs from human activities on both land and sea, tabu areas can no longer sufficiently safeguard fish stocks and protect habitats and ecological functions. A pressing need exists to combine the tabu approach with modern conservation methods in order to support socially and culturally appropriate and effective conservation. Three of the 20 marine protected areas that WCS has helped the Kubulau villages to set up in the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape prohibit fishing, and are managed at the district level. The rest are small, inshore, or coastal tabu areas overseen by individual villages and opened periodically at the discretion of the village chief.

WCS Responds

At the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape within Bligh Waters, WCS is working with a team of dedicated young Fijians and 10 villages in the Kubulau district to establish an ecosystem-based approach to coral reef conservation. Within the Kubulau qoliqoli (the traditional sea tenure area owned and managed to a large extent by Kubulau villages), WCS and its partners have conducted basic ecological and socioeconomic assessments, worked with the communities to map fishing patterns and needs, and developed Fiji’s first marine protected areas network. Selected and designed to form an interconnected system, the network's 20 individual marine protected areas work together with 11 small areas that are open to fishing occasionally and 8 that are closed entirely.

From the Newsroom

Virtual Dive in FijiAugust 2, 2013

Namena Reserve is Fiji’s largest marine protected area, located on the southern coast of Vanua Levu Island. Fishing is banned here, and the reserve is home to abundant populations of sharks and rays, octopi, seahorses, and schooling fish—all on view in this underwater tour of its stunning coral reefs.

Marine Reserve Swarming With SharksJuly 16, 2013

Marine researchers find that many more sharks swim in a Fijian marine reserve in which fishing is prohibited compared to adjacent areas that permit fishing.

WCS Helps Fiji Reefs Stay SacredJune 8, 2011

In honor of World Oceans Day, June 8th, the people of Fiji's Totoya Island declare a portion of their vibrant coral reefs sacred. The measure will help ensure the continued health of the island's coastal resources, its ecosystem, and its residents' livelihoods and culture.

Journey to a Sacred ReefJune 6, 2011

Follow along on the adventures of WCS marine conservationist Stacy Jupiter, Fiji Country Program Director, as she explores the sacred reefs of Totoya Island in the company of the island's high chief and various conservation partners. The expedition aims to revitalize cultural practices that have safeguarded this stunning Fijian seascape over many decades.

Fishy Finding in Fiji January 12, 2010

Known by seafood fans as one of the most sustainable options on the dinner menu, tilapia farmed in Fiji is gaining a new reputation as an invasive species that’s threatening the islands’ native fish.

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