Shark Reef Marine Reserve
Beqa Adventure Divers (BAD) began their conservation and sustainability work in 2003 with The Fiji Shark Project. This project resulted in the establishment of Shark Reef Marine Reserve (SRMR), a full no-take Marine Protected Area or MPA in 2004.
SRMR was Fiji's first MPA dedicated to researching and preserving local shark populations and was created in collaboration with the village of Galoa who owned the traditional fishing rights and the then Ministry of Fisheries.
To compensate Galoa Village for the loss of fishing opportunity, a daily Marine Park Levy is collected from each diver who dives Shark Reef Marine Reserve. Disbursements to Galoa Village have been used for essential village projects and youth education. A committee comprising representatives of all village tribes is responsible for managing the funds.
Scientific work started with the establishment of baselines for biodiversity, and research into the sharks’ movements. After the discovery that the larger sharks were regularly leaving the Reserve, BAD negotiated a shark (only) fishing ban for the entire fishing grounds of five villages on the southern coast of Viti Levu.
Each of the villages were and still continue to be compensated via an increase in the Marine Park Levy. Payments to all villages thus far have exceeded $500k FJD. The 'Fiji Shark Corridor' as it is now known, spans approx. 30 miles of reefs along the southern coast of Viti Levu and has been scientifically
shown to greatly improve local shark conservation.
After ten years of advocacy, dozens of research papers and local conservation projects, many of which in close cooperation with first the Ministry of Fisheries; Cabinet designated SRMR as Fiji’s first National Marine Park in November 2014!
The National Marine Park status was achieved through the voluntary support of the village of Galoa. Galoa was especially influenced by the fact that SRMR had been acting as a protected breeding area and “fish bank” whereby spill-over had led to a notable increase of fishing yields within Galoa’s fishing grounds. The SRMR went from barren and having 150 species of fish to having bountiful biodiversity with 450 species of fish. SRMR also has the largest aggregation of Bull Sharks in the world.
BAD has been entrusted by the Ministry of Fisheries with the day-to-day management of SRMR in a ground-breaking public-private partnership. Many of BAD's staff are Honorary Fish Wardens.
BAD's ultimate goal is to achieve science-based management of Fiji’s fish stocks, including sharks, and to preserve the long-term integrity of marine habitats.
BAD believe that ecotourism and the fishing industry can coexist harmoniously – provided the fishing industry is managed sustainably in line with the best possible science-based advice. In the short term, however, this requires that Fiji’s already depleted stocks be allowed to recover. To accomplish this, vision and leadership for implementing adequate conservation measures are necessary which will no doubt be unpopular in the short term but yield astronomical benefits in the future.