Fiji's Waters

Coral Reef in Fiji Photo
More than 1,200 species of reef fish live in the waters around Fiji, and more than 350 species of hard coral comprise its reefs.
©S. Jupiter
Fiji Landscape Photo
A notably beautiful outcropping of islands in the southern Pacific Ocean, Fiji is inextricably bound to the ocean, both environmentally and culturally.
©S. Jupiter
Kids in Fiji Photo
Working with local Fijian communities to determine their fishing patterns and needs, WCS scientists helped develop Fiji’s first network of marine protected areas.
©S. Jupiter

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.

Challenges

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. There is a pressing need to combine the tabu approach with modern conservation methods in order to support socially and culturally appropriate and effective conservation. While overfishing has been the principal adverse influence on these reef systems, ecologically insensitive land-use practices, such as logging, road building, forest clearing for villages, and agriculture and coastal development, also pose serious threats.

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 local Kubulau district to establish an ecosystem-based approach to coral reef conservation. Within their qoliqoli (the traditional sea tenure area owned and managed to a large extent by local 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. Three of the 20 marine protected areas that WCS has helped the Kubulau villages set up 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.

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.

In Fiji, a Fishing Fundraiser Takes a TollMarch 23, 2012

When local fishers in Kia Island opened a protected coral reef to fishing for a short-term community fundraising effort, the effects of the harvest bore long-term consequences for the reef's health.

Tackling Climate Change in FijiSeptember 13, 2011

Scientists, conservation practitioners, decision and policymakers meet in Suva, Fiji to address environmental challenges brought on by climate change.

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.

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