Our visits to the Fijian villages and the one resort in Macuata Province were made the richer when we were able to document the fieldwork of WWF South Pacific Marine Species Coordinator Laitia Tamata, WWF Labasa staff Koli Musudroka and University of South Pacific Laisiasa Cavakiqali. They were visiting 5 sites in the target reef systems in FIME, the Fiji Islands Marine Ecoregion (two sites in Kavewa Island, one off Kia Island and two sites in Yadua Island) where a study is conducted using underwater temperature loggers (Hobo Underwater Temperature Pro V2 Data Logger) to monitor real time sea temperatures which could clarify links between sea temperature fluctuations and reef bleaching events. The mission of our team was to retrieve these data loggers (deployed in May 2012 in the 5 target reef systems of FIME), download the data and put the data loggers back to the reef for another year. And most important was for them to study the year-long data accumulated by these data loggers in the waters of the Great Sea Reef.
We first met the team in Nukubati Island Resort. Their task was not an easy one as they didn’t have the GPS location for Kia of the sites where the data loggers were deployed. Lucky for the research team our able dive master and guide Salote Cina went with the original team who deployed the data loggers the year before. She was a bit apprehensive not finding the two loggers because Cyclone Evan had passed this reef system. A data logger which is really a small plastic-like tube with some electronic recording thingamajig hanging around in the reef is no match for the force of a category 5 cyclone! Within 5 minutes into the dives for the two sites, Lote found the data loggers!
Back on the boat after the dive, Laitia and Laisiasa quickly downloaded the data into the computer to return the data logger back to the reef for yet another year’s data gathering.
After the retrieval of the loggers Laitia and Laisiasa surveyed the reef.
When the transect line was set up, Laisiasa used a Coral Finder made by a friend of ours Russell Kelley from Townsville to identify the corals! Imagine our surprise when we saw the Coral Finder in use underwater, as it should be!!!
Sea surface temperatures were so far within the normal temperature range for Fiji waters. The only negative impacts of climate change was seen on Katawaqa Island in Kavewa where beach erosion and turtle nest destruction were evident as a result of Cyclone Evan.
While in Yadua Island, the WWF team checked and measured the sand area of the turtle nesting beaches and the health of the seagrass beds. Here’s Laitia and Koli hard at work.
Results have shown that the turtle habitats (nesting beaches, coral reefs and seas grass beds) were in a relatively good condition.