April 2013

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.

Laitia Tamata, Koli Musudroka of WWF South Pacific and Laisiasa Cavakiqali of University of South Pacific check GPS where the one-year-old data logger is located in the coral reefs of Yadua Island in the Great Sea Reefs.

Laitia Tamata, Koli Musudroka of WWF South Pacific and Laisiasa Cavakiqali of University of South Pacific check GPS where the one-year-old data logger is located in the coral reefs of Yadua Island in the Great Sea Reefs.

Laisiasa Cavakiqali from USP receives a slate from Laitia Tamata, Koli Musudroka of WWF South Pacific as he dives to retrieve a data logger in Yadua Island belonging to the Great Sea Reefs.

Laisiasa Cavakiqali from USP receives a slate from Laitia Tamata, Koli Musudroka of WWF South Pacific as he dives to retrieve a data logger in Yadua Island belonging to the Great Sea Reefs.

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!

Laisiasa Cavakiqali of the University of South Pacific retrieving a data logger near Kia Island that has a year's worth of temperature information of the Great Sea Reefs.

Laisiasa Cavakiqali of the University of South Pacific retrieving a data logger near Kia Island that has a year’s worth of temperature information of the Great Sea Reefs.

Freshly retrieved data logger from Yadua Island by Laisiasa Cavakiqali of University of South Pacific, guided only by a GPS location where the logger is attached to the reef. This is like looking for a needle in a haystack!

Freshly retrieved data logger from Yadua Island by Laisiasa Cavakiqali of University of South Pacific, guided only by a GPS location where the logger is attached to the reef. This is like looking for a needle in a haystack!

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.

Laitia Tamata of WWF South Pacific and Laisiasa Cavakiqali of University of South Pacific downloads year-long data from the newly retrieved data logger that shows the temperature of the Great Sea Reefs for a year.

Laitia Tamata of WWF South Pacific and Laisiasa Cavakiqali of University of South Pacific downloads year-long data from the newly retrieved data logger that shows the temperature of the Great Sea Reefs for a year.

After the retrieval of the loggers Laitia and Laisiasa surveyed the reef.

Laisiasa Cavakiqali of University of South Pacific dives and performs a transect of the Great Sea Reefs from near Kia Island.

Laisiasa Cavakiqali of University of South Pacific dives and performs a transect of the Great Sea Reefs from near Kia Island.

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!!!

Laisiasa Cavakiqali of University of South Pacific checks what corals there are with the help of a Coral Finder while he conducts a transect of the Great Sea Reefs from near Kia Island along with Laitia Tamata of WWF South Pacific.

Laisiasa Cavakiqali of University of South Pacific checks what corals there are with the help of a Coral Finder while he conducts a transect of the Great Sea Reefs from near Kia Island along with Laitia Tamata of WWF South Pacific.

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.

Laitia Tamata of WWF South Pacific in the library of Nukubati Island Resort downloading the data from the retrieved data logger that spent a year underwater in the Great sea Reef loading temperature information.

Laitia Tamata of WWF South Pacific in the library of Nukubati Island Resort downloading the data from the retrieved data logger that spent a year underwater in the Great sea Reef loading temperature information.

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.

Laitia Tamata and Koli Musudroka of WWF South Pacific conduct a beach survey measuring the length and width of a beach that is a turtle nesting ground.

Laitia Tamata and Koli Musudroka of WWF South Pacific conduct a beach survey measuring the length and width of a beach that is a turtle nesting ground.

In front of a turtle nesting site, Laitia Tamata and Koli Musudroka of WWF South Pacific conduct seagrass sampling in Yadua Island.

In front of a turtle nesting site, Laitia Tamata and Koli Musudroka of WWF South Pacific conduct seagrass sampling in Yadua Island.

In another area, Laitia and Koli find full seagrass cover.

In another area, Laitia and Koli find full seagrass cover.

Results have shown that the turtle habitats (nesting beaches, coral reefs and seas grass beds) were in a relatively good condition.

Stella posing below the panda with Laitia Tamata and Koli Musudroka of WWF South Pacific in Nukubati Island Resort.

Stella posing below the panda with Laitia Tamata and Koli Musudroka of WWF South Pacific in Nukubati Island Resort.