So we had a very good question in an email recently asking for an explanation of shark count method and analysis used in the Great Fiji Shark Count. Helen answered below.
An exercise held across Fiji waters during the months of April and November to ascertain the shark and ray population enters its fifth year this month. The Great Fiji Shark Count, started by a group of scientists and tourism operators and led by Beqa Adventure Divers in Pacific Harbour and Marine Ecology Consulting in Lami, encourages divers to record and report any instances where they encounter sharks, rays and turtles; recording the number of sightings and species.
Mr Ian Campbell, WWF’s Global Shark Programme Manager said, “The Great Fiji Shark Count is a fantastic initiative, and WWF applauds all dive operators who participate.
One of the biggest barriers to effective shark conservation is a lack of basic information on shark and ray populations. This is a problem we see throughout the Pacific, and a programme like this can provide some fundamental data for governments to be able to develop sustainable management plans and conservation measures for sharks and rays.”
“The beauty of the Great Fiji Shark Count is that it uses a fantastic resource of dive tourists who not only generate income for Fiji, but also reduce the cost to government for collecting much needed data. WWF would love to see similar initiatives set up throughout the Pacific which is why we are publicly backing the project,” Mr Campbell added.
Dive tourism plays a huge part in Fiji’s economy, with estimates of shark diving alone being worth over US$42 million (FJ$85 million). Mr Ben Saqata, a marine biologist at Beqa Adventure Divers said given that information, a group of prominent shark researchers recognised that tourists were potentially a great resource to help the Fijian government get more information on sharks, rays and turtles found in Fiji.
“With that in mind, they contacted like-minded individuals in Fiji who organized funding, developed the methodology and support materials, and then mobilized the Fiji dive tourism industry for this important citizen science initiative. We are proud to have participated in this event from the get-go, and can’t wait to see a first in-depth analysis of population trends of Fiji’s sharks, rays and turtles now that we dispose of a full five years of data. Our particular thanks go to Dr. Christine Ward-Paige of e-Shark whose support and guidance has been invaluable, and to the many sponsors who have helped turn this vision into reality,” Mr Saqata added.
Marine biologist Ms Helen Sykes, who coordinates the analysis of the data says the information generated will be analysed and compiled into a report that will show shark, ray and turtle population trends over the past five years.
“Back in 2011, the original idea for the Great Fiji Shark Count was to collect data that was otherwise unavailable, and provide it to the Department of Fisheries to inform their conservation and management plans. It is very hard to collect data on shark populations without an enormous amount of resources, but we have tourist divers in the water all over the countries who are very interested in shark conservation, and they are able to collect information that would take millions of dollars for scientists to gather. As divers love to watch sharks, rays and turtles, through this programme we are able to add to their experience, increase awareness of the importance of these species, and also raise Fiji’s profile as having a pristine reef environment that the Fijian Government wants to preserve and manage sustainably. The Great Fiji Shark Count is a win for all involved,” Ms Sykes said.
The Ministry of Fisheries is also a supporter of the programme and data collected will help the ministry with their shark management plans. This month’s Great Fiji Shark Count comes hot on the heels of Fiji’s global shark conservation successes at the recent CITES meeting in South Africa, where Fiji led calls to limit international trade in sharks and rays.
Originally published by WWF: Great Fiji Shark Count into its fifth year
Over the past 3 years, dive operators across Fiji & their diving & snorkelling guests have been recording their Shark, Ray & Turtle sightings over the months of April & November. Thanks to those dedicated divers, we now have some interesting facts to share about Shark populations in Fiji.
Average Numbers of animals seen per dive during each count
Shark numbers were ten times more than seen on non-feed dives.
Overall populations appear to be increasing slightly.
Many of the baited feeding dives in Fiji involve large numbers of Bull Sharks which are known to have seasonal breeding patterns, reflected in lower shark numbers every November and higher numbers every April.
Ray and Turtle sightings on the feed sites are infrequent, and numbers generally low.More info here…
Average Numbers of animals per dive during each count
Over the years, across Fiji, divers have seen an average of 1.22 to 2.03 Sharks on every dive, plus one Ray and one Turtle every 5 to 10 dives.
Shark sightings varied year by year, but the general trend appears stable or slightly increasing.
Ray and Turtle sightings appear to be very stable.More info here…
The involvement of three of Fiji’s largest voluntourism organisations has added a large amount of data and collectors to The Great Fiji Shark Count in 2014. They are a diverse group of youngsters in different parts of the country, and have been very helpful in sending in data and boosting our results.
As the total number of observations are important to the science (the more data points, the more robust the results, the better the outcomes) these groups have greatly improved the volume of reports and surveys this year.
We look forward to their input and data during the November count, which is sooner than you think!
Went out for a dive at Lone Tree with Katie, Bill and Sue. Katie had been staying at Crusoe’s Retreat for almost a month and had done 20+ dives with us, Bill and Sue are from Alaska – he a bush pilot with a fund of good stories, she a marine biologist who was used to working on the contents of walruses stomachs in the Arctic.
We dropped in at Lone Tree at about 9.35 am. The aim was to find a Leopard shark that Mesake said lived at around 27 m on the sandy bottom at the edge of the reef, so we planned a max.27m multilevel dive. As we swam down the sandy bottom past the tree I was pleased to see that the viz wasn’t too bad – the channel can be pretty green and cloudy because of fresh water flowing in from the creek, but whilst it was green, it was relatively clear, 10metres or so. After a couple of minutes sculling down the reef, the first thing to turn up were 5 or 6 yellowfin barracuda. They did the usual curious cuda circle, then continued on past us .
Congratulations! Our supporters voted and our Ocean Action Project is one of six winning projects across the globe. Project AWARE support our project The Great Fiji Shark Count.
84 applications worldwide, 10 finalists and six winners. A new wave of Ocean Action is about to begin thanks to everyone’s vote.
Help us get the financial support we need to run the next Great Fiji Shark Count!
Voting is on for the Ocean Action Project 2013 and we need your vote for The Great Fiji Shark Count! Projects will be chosen by the Project AWARE community through a voting system via Facebook.
Now we need our supporters and community cast their vote for The Great Fiji Shark Count this November.
Preliminary results of the Great Fiji Shark Count, April 2012
In the month of April, 3,693 divers recorded their shark sightings during 855 dives.
Getting up close and personal with underwater wildlife is one of the draws of scuba diving.
Most of the creatures you’ll encounter when you go on a dive are harmless, but there are others that you need to watch out for.
Not surprisingly we’re not talking about sharks. Below are some seemingly innocuous creatures can cause injury or death if you tangle with them. Keep an eye out for these creatures as you dive so you can enjoy a safe scuba experience.
AS shark lovers prepare for the resumption of The Great Fiji Shark Count, tourism operators are gearing to host advocates who’ll fly in from around the world to take part in it next month.
And there’s a lot of anticipation and expectation this time after only 70 per cent of Fiji’s dive operators took part in the first count in April.
Count official Nani Ledua said the floods that ravaged the Nadi coast then affected their data collection.
Copyright © 2012, Fiji Times Limited. All Rights Reserved.
Ilaitia Turagabeci (Wednesday, April 04, 2012)
THE seas around our 300-plus islands are abuzz with anticipation for the Great Fiji Shark Count.
From tourism operators, adventurers, marine researchers, coastal fishermen, deep sea anglers, anyone with a love for the blue and the wonders living in it, it’s a time to check who is alive down there, and how many.
The great invite across the isles and abroad is a scientific research which aims to put a population figure to the different species of sharks, rays and turtles in our waters.
The Great Fiji Shark Count an initiative of Fiji tourism operators and organised by Helen Sykes, the co-ordinator of Fiji Coral Reef Monitoring Network will be held throughout this month and November.More info here…
AS some rushed around in the frolic of fun and others in the frantic of safety during the flash floods that hit a fortnight ago, there was a silent fight for survival in the muddy, murky waters of Nadi.
Under the brown rush that tore through the banks of the Nadi River flooding the jet-set town and nearby suburbs and sending thousands for the safety of high and dry ground ù came the little sharks.
They, like some of those unfortunate to have been caught and swept away at the height of the flood in Nadi after a torrent of 292mm of rainwater (24 hours from 9am January 24th to 9am January 25th), desperately fought the raging flood currents that have slowly eroded the riverbanks over the years.
So when one fought its way through the force of nature to the calmer floodwaters in the suburbs, and was found dead when it couldn’t get food in its new concrete and grassy environment, there was a lot of excitement and pain.More info here…
SHARK conservation around the country is gaining momentum with students adopting the once feared predator as their “friend”.
Sharkman Manoa Rasigatale, the veteran campaigner who has been visiting schools and villages in the three confederacies since April last year, said more people were becoming aware of the importance of sharks to our reef system and supported efforts to turn Fiji’s waters into a shark sanctuary.
“The children are the best listeners. They are our future and now understand better the value of sharks alive than dead,” he said.
“Everywhere I go, children of all ages share one thing ù that even though they may have feared them, they now regard sharks with more respect and friendship.
“That has been one of my greatest satisfaction, to plant the seed of conservation and help shape the thoughts of children to protect one of our greatest resources.
“Their response has been tremendous. They really want to participate in the conservation themselves.”More info here…
Calling all eco-conscious couples – how would you like a honeymoon in a certified eco-resort in stunning Fiji?
- Return international flights, for 2 people, from Hong Kong to Fiji’s Nadi airport*
- Return domestic flight transfers, for 2 people, from Nadi to Kadavu island*
- Return boat transfers from Kadavu airport to Matava, Fiji’s premier eco-adventure resort*
- 6 night’s accommodation in an oceanview bure at Matava
- 8 dives (4 x 2-tank morning dives) for two with Mad Fish Dive Centre, Matava’s on site PADI 5 Star Dive Centre and unlimited all day shore diving at The Critter Junction (NB. For non-divers, scuba diving package can be exchanged for other resort activities)
- Traditional Lovo Feast and Kava ceremony
- All meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, unlimited tea/coffee)
- All taxes for food/accommodation at Matava*
Winners must pay taxes and surcharges for flights. Availability for the grand prize flights and accommodation package will be subject to blackout dates to be confirmed in the winner’s Grand Diamond Prize confirmation letter.
Calling all sophisticated bridal couples! By making your wedding shark-free, you can show respect to both your guests and our oceans as well as earning the opportunity to win a fabulous prize! Enter the Happy Hearts Love Sharks – Hong Kong wedding contest now.…More info here…
Bula Friends and Colleagues !!
Representing the Coral Reef Alliance and the Pew Environment Foundation, Helen Sykes has kindly offered to talk this week about shark conservation in Fiji. Lecture participants will have the opportunity to watch the 30 min documentary film “Shark Hope”, which has just recently been launched in Fiji.
After the film there will be a chance to ask questions on the subject and pick up some Shark Sanctuary campaign materials.Helen will also share information about the Great Fiji Shark Count, a tourism-based initiative planned for April 2012 by a group of volunteer organizations.More info here…