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.
“For the love of the animal, people will be flocking into Fiji for this event and we’re pretty much excited by the response we’re getting,” said Ms Ledua, of Beqa Adventure Divers.
From tourism operators, adventurers, marine researchers, coastal fishermen, deep sea anglers, anyone with a love for the blue and the wonders living in it, the count is a time to check who is alive down there, and how many.
A first for the world, the count — an initiative of Fiji tourism operators and organised by Helen Sykes, of Marine Ecology and co-ordinator of Fiji Coral Reef Monitoring Network — is a scientific research which aims to put a population figure to the different species of sharks, rays and turtles in our waters.
Ms Ledua said scientists could not do the work alone and the invite to The Great Fiji Shark Count was meant to involve everyone.
Data for April — which was mostly collected around Pacific Harbour and Taveuni — was sent to the United States for analysis.
The rejection of a proposed shark sanctuary by the Ministry of Fisheries, which had earlier advocated for it, upset stakeholders after months of lobbying. They have now indicated they are willing to work with the ministry to help cut down on the number of sharks being killed annually for their fins.
The demand for shark fins, meat, liver oil and other products has driven numerous shark populations to the brink of extinction.
While the ministry had earlier said it was aware of the problem, it later maintained after lobbying by tuna boat operators that Fiji’s shark population was stable.
The push is now for a shark management plan and the Pew Environment Group and Coral Reef Alliance are working with the ministry to educate its officers on identifying the different shark species that are being fished for their fins.
The advocates are proposing a nearshore fisheries decree to help restore depleted populations.
Ms Ledua said their data, which will be published at a later date, showed a decline in shark population around the country.
“There’s a notable decrease and we will have figures to work on at the end of our November count,” she said.
“We hope that Fiji accepts the help being offered by NGOs to help us manage our fisheries and all dive tourism operators are giving their 100 per cent to ensure something positive comes out of this.”
According to a study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Western Australia earlier this year, shark-related diving contributed $US42.2million ($F75.4million) to Fiji’s economy in 2010.
Monday, October 22, 2012