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Surveying sharks at the sharp end

News item submitted by Frontier
News item dated 20 Jul 2009

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Shark survey work by Frontier-Fiji researchers at one of the world’s best dive sites has started to ring alarm bells. Urgent action is required to protect the future of fish stocks living around the Nigali passage on the island of Gau.

Throw ‘Nigali passage’ into any internet search engine and the results boast it to be one of the world’s most spectacular dive sites, renowned for visiting shivers (groups) of sharks and many impressive fish species. Forming a natural break in Gau’s outer barrier reef, the Nigali passage provides a corridor into an inner lagoon and a popular breeding site for grey reef sharks. However, all may not be as it seems, as our research team has recently observed noticeable declines in the size of fish shoals and the number of returning breeding sharks.

Frontier-Fiji are a privileged bunch, lucky enough to have the opportunity to dive in this amazing place whilst performing vital research, a rare yet brilliant combination of business and pleasure! Sadly, the results from their recent surveys have validated our concerns regarding depleting shark and fish populations.

One possible cause of this decline is thought to be a result of over-fishing in the area, diminishing the number of fish and consequently reducing the sharks’ food source. As a favored birthing site and nursery for grey reef sharks, the size of Nigali’s resident fish stocks are likely to be a major influencing factor of the sharks’ survival.

Not ones to sit back and watch, Frontier-Fiji are taking action to instigate a shark monitoring program to help with this issue. Over the next months the team will conduct shark counts and record any population declines.

We hope that the results will draw attention to the declining shark numbers, highlight the impact of the current fishing levels and demonstrate why Nigali urgently requires some form of conservation protection. It’s vital the local government recognize Nigali as a site of natural environmental importance and express this to the local people.

It may be early days for our shark monitoring program, however we hope our long term efforts will contribute significantly towards preserving this dive paradise and the magnificent populations of grey reef sharks who rely on it.

Read more about conserving marine life in Fiji