On Better Ocean Policy and Conservationists Catching Undersized Fish

Our first few weeks in Fiji have been a series of juxtapositions. Aimee and I live in an admittedly grimy, traffic ridden city but are only a bus ride away from pristine beaches.  I spend my working hours researching Ocean Policy Frameworks in the South Pacific but still happily chow down on tuna which is almost assuredly undersized.  Everyone has been so kind and generous since we have arrived.  Our landlords gave us the last avocado off their tree our first week here.

The actual biggest avocado that I’ve ever seen (and eaten).

Work-wise, I am researching Integrated Ocean Management in the South Pacific.  This is a concept that has been knocking around since Agenda 21, at least, yet still doesn’t seem to have a clear definition. For now, I’m convinced that if I read enough, I will come up with one.  But enough of that.

As you can guess, all of this research has made us a bit stir crazy. Fortunately there is a protected rainforest a 10 minute drive up the road from us with some excellent swimming pools and countless waterfalls.

Jumping into some ridiculously blue water.

I know it looks like some sort of fairytale rendering of a rainforest, but it’s real.

This is Colo-I-Suva.  I will definitely be returning

If you know me at all, you will also know that I’m REALLY into my dog. Honestly, I’m missing her like crazy. And the rest of you, but her the most.  I can’t help it.  Fortunately there are dogs everywhere in Suva and they are all surprisingly well-tempered and well fed, if not in need of a bath. We have two adorable guard dogs at the house named Chico and Chubby.  Supposedly they will bark before they roll over and demand belly rubs from an intruder. Supposedly.

They never sit still long enough for a picture.

We also attended our first conference in Fiji called “Pacific Voices for a Global Ocean Challenge” hosted by the French embassy at The University of the South Pacific (USP). We heard about Fiji and France’s dedication to SDG14 and the Paris Agreement (unlike some major world powers). And from some people on the ground talking about the realities of marine conservation in the South Pacific.  Free lunch made the endeavor especially worth it.

Two idealistic grad students about to be served a dose of reality.

We also got to visit the french research vessel the Tara which has been hosting various marine researchers as it voyages through the South Pacific. I snuck into the tour below decks with some USP professors. Maybe I’ll visit them again when they stop by Monterey in July 2018.

Proof that I got on the Tara.

Last weekend we took Friday off and finally made it out of the city.  It turns out that you don’t need to travel far to get past a polluted harbor and reach some pretty pristine looking beaches.  Everyone kept telling us that Suva is the rainiest part of Fiji and I’m starting to believe them.

Friday morning I went for my first dive in Fiji, which also happens to be the most famous dive in Fiji.  This is the Beqa shark dive. I was expecting a few bullsharks and reef sharks, but it turns out they weren’t kidding when they promised dozens of sharks. We were inches away from at least 40 bullsharks. The bigger ones were 9-12 feet long. And there was no cage. I was really impressed by how well thought out and organized the entire dive was.  Also, almost everyone working at the dive shop and all of the dive guides were Fijian. It was great to see them keeping such a lucrative tourism industry local.

They attract the sharks by dropping tuna heads out of this trash bin.

While they do chum the waters for the sharks which isn’t ideal, I was truly impressed by the education focus of the dive and their conservation work.  The reef where these sharks gather was the first MPA in Fiji and remains well monitored. During our surface interval, we received a lecture on the life cycle of the bullshark and work they are doing to protect them.  Apparently the pregnant mothers swim 60-90 km inland in freshwater rivers to give birth and their offspring will remain in these rivers for a year or more before swimming down to the ocean.

I also had this sweet outdoor shower (which made me feel like a bit of an exhibitionist).

After our dive we went a bit more west to the Beach House where we ate good food, listened to live music, and hung out on the beach.  Bryan, Aimee’s other half, was visiting and we went fishing for his birthday.  We caught 11 little trevally and sea bream. I felt pretty guilty but they were delicious.

Our hapless victims.

Other than that, I took a lot of pictures of sunsets so I can inspire some serious FOMO back home.


One thought on “On Better Ocean Policy and Conservationists Catching Undersized Fish

  1. Fun read! Thanks Alex! I had no idea that any shark swam upriver to give birth–bull sharks do the whole salmon thing—great to learn. Great that you are seeing the locals in command of the tourist industry, at least in the dive world. Hope that is the case more broadly. Your doggie misses you too! (I’m channeling her, since she can’t type.)

Leave a Reply