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Status - Coral Reefs

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1 . Fiji     Fiji
Pollution, elevated nutrients and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, have significantly degraded coral reefs off Suva. Leeward reefs in Northern Viti Levu and some other areas have probably been degraded by increased sedimentation from agricultural areas. Heavy metals and faecal coliform contamination from sewage heavily pollute reefs close to urban areas such as Suva Harbour.

Most reefs are moderately to heavily fished and stocks of reef invertebrates such as giant clams, trochus and bêche-de-mer have been reduced. Collection of shells for sale is common and has resulted in depletion of the giant triton shell, Charonia tritonis.

In the past, mass coral bleaching has been occasional. A massive mortality of coral algae, invertebrates and fish occurred between Savusavu and Buca Bay on Vanua Levu in January 1999 and may be more related to extreme temperatures and run-off (Zann & Vuki, 2000). Coral bleaching has occurred recently, affecting 80% of corals of different species at the Great Astrolabe Reef (Naqasima-Sobey, pers. comm.), Beqa lagoon, Suva Barrier Reefs, Northern Vanua Levu Reefs and Ovalau Reefs.

Crown of thorns starfish predation is a common phenomenon on Fijian reefs. On intensively fished reefs in Southern Kadavu, Suva Reefs, Kabara and Lakeba in the Lau Group, large feeding aggregations of crown of thorns starfish have observed (Jennings, 1998; Zann and Vuki, unpublished, N.Dulvy, pers. comms.) It has been suggested that these crown of thorns starfish proliferated following the removal of their fish predators, but no data are available to test this hypothesis.

Six companies in Fiji are currently involved in a major trade in stony or scleractinian corals, live rock, live sand, for use as aquarium specimens and curios. Coral harvesting for the curio trade was carefully controlled in Fiji when it began in 1984. The Fiji Fisheries Division issued a single licence for coral collecting to Seaking Traders. Because of the increase in the number of companies, Fiji Fisheries cannot effectively monitor the current coral harvesting activities in Fiji because of limited human and financial resources. There is some concern over the impact of coral harvesting on Fijian reefs.

The most acutely disturbed areas in Fiji are Suva Harbour and Laucala Bay. These areas are generally polluted, moderately eutrophic, have major loss of shore habitats because of reclamation, crown of thorns outbreaks and overfishing. Lautoka Harbour and Nadi Bay are also similar to Suva Harbour and Laucala Bay. Levuka and Savusavu harbours have localised and diffuse point source discharges.

Inshore fin-fish have been over-exploited because of the high dependence of Fiji's increasing population on these resources. Fin-fish resources closer to heavily populated centers are declining rapidly due to high fishing pressure. In spite of the high fishing pressure on fisheries resources, there is an over-emphasis on the export fisheries and in 1998 alone, a budget of $3.17 million was allocated to support export fisheries (World Bank, 1999).

Reefs close to urban areas have experienced heavy fishing pressure for shellfish and stocks of invertebrates subject to export fisheries have been overfished. These include Trochus niloticus and holothurians such as Actinopyga miliaris, Holothuria nobilis, Holothuria fuscogilva, Holothuria scabra, and Thelenota ananas.

Low yields in Kadavu, western Lau and Suva's reefs indicate that these areas are overfished (Jennings & Polunin, 1995). Stocks of highly targeted fish species such as Lethrinus harak, Lethrinus xanthochilus, Lethrinus nebulosus, Bolbometopon muricatum and all the Mugilid species have been overfished.

Fong (1994) reported that catch rates as well as sizes of fin-fish have declined rapidly within the Great Sea Reef. In the Lau Group, fish stocks have declined on some islands (Ledua & Vuki, 1998). Stocks of fish were abundant prior to the arrival of tuna pole-and -line vessels. Juvenile fishes were being caught in large numbers in bouki-ami nets of tuna pole-and-line vessels.
Source: Vuki, V., M. Naqasima and R. Vave , 2000 , Status of Fiji's Coral Reefs . Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) Report. (See Document)

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