Beqa Adventure Divers
2022 PADI AWARE Grantee
Survey fish species and abundance in the Shark Reef Marine Reserve
Critical funding through a PADI AWARE Foundation’s Community Grant will allow the adventure divers to survey the marine protected area for fish species and abundance. The goal of this work is to determine the impact that poaching during the pandemic had on local fish populations and to work towards a more abundant future. They will also bolster ecosystem health through both coral and giant clam restoration.
“Magical, Wondrous, Vulnerable, Finite.”
These are the words that Natasha Marosi, Director of Conservation at Beqa Adventure Divers in Fiji used to describe our ocean. They also explain why Marosi and her team are dedicated to rehabilitating the nearby Shark Reef Marine Reserve.
Marine-protected areas have far-reaching benefits to local ecosystems and communities. Not only do they serve as critical habitat and foraging grounds for many species, but they also provide spaces for vulnerable species to recover from overfishing or other environmental threats. Studies also document the “spillover effect” of marine resources like key fish species from protected areas into nearby depleted areas where fishing is allowed. Thus, increasing marine protected areas helps boost populations of marine species beyond the borders.
The SRMR Rehabilitation project will focus on assessing the degradation of the Shark Reef Marine Reserve through biodiversity assessments and fish counts. In particular, the Beqa Adventure Divers will focus on key species like grouper, jacks, parrotfish, surgeonfish, emperors, and snappers to assess how much damage pandemic poaching may have caused.
Future, follow-up surveys indicating “rapid rebound rates for many depleted fish species” would be the ultimate success story for this project, Marosi said. If key fish species were on the rebound, and populations were recovering at a steady rate, it would be “incredibly inspiring and motivating.”
“It would give us hope that biodiversity could be restored, and Shark Reef Marine Reserve could once again be a sanctuary not only for sharks but [for] every creature calling the reef ecosystem ‘home,’” she said.