24thth August 2023
The Wakaya Manta Conservation Project
Being surrounded by some of the most pristine reef habitats in Fiji, Wakaya Island boasts an incredible diversity of marine life, including scalloped hammerhead sharks, leopard sharks, turtles, humphead wrasse and the enigmatic reef manta ray (Mobulaalfredi).
Unfortunately, through much of their range globally manta rays are threatened by overfishing and climate change, in recent decades manta rays have been targeted specifically for their gill plates which are used in the medicinal market within SE Asia. This heavy pressure has dramatically decreased populations in some areas.
To assist with manta conservation efforts in Fiji, Wakaya has partnered with Manta Project Fiji where we work together to better understand the manta ray populations around Wakaya and the wider Fiji waters. With a large section of the Wakaya reef system being a legislated MPA, one of the few in Fiji, it is an invaluable opportunity to study Fiji’s manta rays in a habitat with very little disturbance to fishing pressures.
Wakaya Coral Nursery
Coral reefs are the lifeblood of the South Pacific Ocean and island nations such as Fiji. These teeming ecosystems support huge quantities of life, which in turn support the people living closest to them with food, shelter from storms and many other resources. Unfortunately overfishing and climate change, much like the manta ray, is threatening their existence, with the warming water coral bleaching has become much more prevalent and with the overfishing of herbivores such as parrotfish and surgeonfish rampant algal growth in warming waters can overtake even the healthiest coral colony.
To combat some of these threats, this year Wakaya has launched the Wakaya Coral Nursery, to ensure the coral reefs surrounding the island and nearby reefs continue to thrive in the face of uncertainty. Surrounding Wakaya many species of coral can be found, from the shallow sheltered waters of Homestead Beach to the breath-taking drop-offs on the outer reef coral species thrive in the Wakaya MPA. Despite the protection the MPA gives the reef against fishing, it unfortunately does not protect against warming waters and bleaching.
Our coral nursery supports the growth and propagation of heat resilient colonies, which will be replanted on the reef so that these ‘super’ corals and help restore and build resilience against warming oceans. Mother coral colonies are selected carefully before small fragments are taken to be grown on a specially constructed rope nursery, where the corals will spend the next 9-12 months growing large enough so that they can replanted on degraded sections of reef.
By the end of 2023 we will have planted over 1000 corals in our coral nursery which will be ready to plant back on the reefs by mid-2024. We hope to continue expanding our coral nursery efforts to have the most impactful results possible on our reefs
Sources of Information
- The Wakaya Manta Conservation Project Press Release PDF