Community-driven shark monitoring for informed decision making: a case study from Fiji

Some of the results from the Great Fiji Shark Count have been published in the journal Pacific Conservation Biology. This data was collected by tourism operators across Fiji and their diving and snorkelling guests, collected by staff at Marine Ecology Consulting, supported by Beqa Adventure Divers, and analysed for publication by eOceans.

Community-driven shark monitoring for informed decision making: a case study from Fiji

C. A. Ward-Paige A* , H. Sykes B , G. J. Osgood A and J. Brunnschweiler C

Pacific Conservation Biology 29(5) 402-418

  • Submitted: 7 March 2022 
  • Accepted: 30 August 2022  
  • Published: 11 October 2022


Context: Globally, more than 121 million people enjoy nature-based marine tourism, making it one of the largest marine industries. Ocean degradation threatens this industry and management has not kept pace to ensure long-term sustainability. In response, some individuals within the industry are taking it upon themselves to monitor the ocean and provide the data needed to assist management decisions. Fiji is one such place.

Aims: Between 2012 and 2016, 39 Fijian dive operators, in collaboration with eOceans, conducted the Great Fiji Shark Count to document sharks on their dives.

Methods: Using 146 304 shark observations from 30 668 dives, we document spatial and temporal patterns of 11 shark species at 592 sites.

Key results: Sharks were observed on 13 846 dives (45% of recorded dives) at 441 (74%) sites. Generally, our results matched those from other more limited surveys, including from baited remote underwater video systems. We found high variability in shark presence, species richness, and relative abundance through space and time. One trend was surprising: the most common species, Whitetip Reef Shark, decreased over the study period at eastern sites and increased at western sites; the cause is currently unknown.

Conclusions: Our results can guide management and conservation needs, future scientific questions, and provide a baseline for future assessments.

Implications: This study demonstrates the value of longitudinal observation data that includes absences for describing marine fauna, and confirms the capacity of stakeholders to document the ocean. It also points the direction for broadscale participatory science methodologies to track the ocean.

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