The Fiji National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2017–2024 (NBSAP) is a national policy document recognised under the Fiji Environment Management Act 2005.
Implementation of the actions outlined herein will be undertaken through partnerships between various agencies within the Government of Fiji and nationally-based non-governmental organisations, working collaboratively with communities and the private sector.
An Implementation Framework will detail roles of partners and provide a monitoring and evaluation framework for the NBSAP.
The 2017–2024 NBSAP was developed in collaboration and consultation between the Government of Fiji, non-government organisations, resource owners, the private sector and academic institutions.
Helen Sykes Contributions
Helen Sykes directly contributed to the following sections:
From SOCO report:
- 2.4.1 Coral Reef Ecosystems
- 2.4.1a Status of Coral Reef Ecosystems
- 2.4.1b Trends and Threats to Coral Reef Ecosystem
- 2.4.3 Seagrass Ecosystems
- 2.4.3b Trends and Threats of Seagrass Ecosystem
From SUMA report:
- Annex 6: Special, unique marine areas of Fiji
2.4 Coastal and Marine Ecosystems
2.4.1 Coral Reef Ecosystems
2.4.1a Status of Coral Reef Ecosystems
Coral reefs and their associated ecosystems are fundamental to Fiji life, livelihood and cultural practices, providing goods and services such as food from fish, molluscs and algae, tourism benefits and shoreline protection.
Fiji’s coral reefs are some of the most extensive and diverse in the South Pacific, and consist of a wide range of reef types. Fringing reefs, barrier reefs, platform reefs, oceanic ribbon reefs, drowned reefs, atolls and near-atolls span over 10,020 km 2 . An average live coral cover of 45% (range 8–60%) was reported in 2008 (Morris and Mackay, 2008). The Cakaulevu barrier reef or Great Sea Reef, north of Vanua Levu, is exceptional in being one of the longest barrier reefs in the world (Lovell and Sykes, 2004; Wilkinson, 2008).
Coral cover varies with reef type across the country, from 28% on Viti Levu’s Coral Coast fringing reefs, to over 70% in the deep-water pinnacles of the Vatu-i-Ra Passage. Monitoring data for Fiji is considered reliable and consistent.
Reef systems are vitally important to the large proportion of the populace dependent on subsistence or small scale commercial fishing, and also to Fiji’s extensive tourism industry. In 2000 and 2002, Fiji’s reefs suffered a temperature-related mass bleaching event with the subsequent loss of between 40 and 80% of stony corals across the country. At this time the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) Fiji node was formed to coordinate a variety of data about current reef health from around the region (Lovell and Sykes, 2004). Annual monitoring of up to 15 sites has shown a faster than expected recovery from coral bleaching, and by 2011, the national average hard coral cover and diversity was higher than before the event, showing the resilience of reefs across the country.
2.4.1b Trends and Threats to Coral Reef Ecosystem
Pressures on Fiji’s coral reefs can be categorised into those arising from global factors, including climate change, and Fiji-specific local factors (Bryant et al., 1998).
Global threat categories
Pressures on the health of coral reefs globally include factors associated with climate change, periodic storms and cyclones, coral diseases and predator outbreaks.
- Climate change – factors relating to climate change may have a negative impact on the health of Fiji’s coral reefs and include increasing sea surface temperature, ocean acidification, and increased intensity of storms and cyclones.
- Cyclones may cause local breakage of corals on shallow reef tops, and can cause large-scale damage depending on their severity, while in many cases cyclones have had a protective effect by dropping water temperatures by a full degree or more (Sykes and Morris, 2007; Mangubhai, 2016).
- Coral Health – little coral disease has been observed on Fiji’s reefs, probably due in part to their physical remoteness from large land masses and other reef systems. Higher incidence of White Syndrome has been observed since the 2000 coral bleaching episode, but this may be due to more intensive surveying of coral reefs, than to an actual increase in incidence (Sykes and Morris, 2007).
- Predation from invasive species including Crown-of-Thorns stars (Acanthaster planci) and coralivorous snails (Drupella sp.) occur across the archipelago in what appear to be regular outbreaks, probably linked to increasing coral cover. This has been best documented on the Suva reefs and in the Mamanuca Islands. Removal and poisoning of the Crown of Thorns have been tried in the Mamanuca Islands but with limited success (Sykes and Morris, 2007).
Local Threat Categories
Fiji’s increasing population has created greater pressure on reefs from fishing (especially near urban centres) and caused the loss of marine habitats and higher levels of pollution. Threats to Fiji’s reefs include:
- Watershed-based pollution/sedimentation from developments and deforestation – e.g. mining, vegetation clearance for agriculture and forestry;
- Marine pollution (ports, oil terminals, shipping channels, agricultural pesticides and fertilisers, sewage from residential/tourist centres);
- Coastal development (cities, settlements, airports and military bases, mines, tourist resorts);
- Over-fishing as a result of higher population density and use of destructive fishing techniques, including for the marine; and
- Over-harvesting of corals and marine fish for the marine aquarium trade.
While most of Fiji’s offshore reefs are in a good and stable condition, with good resilience, many reefs close to inhabited shores show chronic stress arising from local pressures, particularly nutrient and sediment pollution, which have the greatest impact on inshore reefs (Lovell and Sykes, 2004). The proliferation of high-impact logging operations in smaller coastal watersheds of Vanua Levu and Viti Levu is one of the major drivers of freshwater and coastal degradation (Atherton et al., 2006).
In certain areas around the larger islands, high levels of sedimentation and nutrient pollution arising from coastal development, agricultural chemical and mining waste run-off have changed the ecology of the fringing reefs from coral-dominated to algal-dominated reefs. Lack of controls on reef dredging for channels and coastal development has physically destroyed some reefs. Mangrove clearance and conversion is significantly reducing important breeding grounds for many reef species.
Lack of attention to these local threats is likely to affect the capability of coral reefs to resist and recover from global-level pressures, and to put most of Fiji’s reefs, particularly around Viti Levu and eastern Vanua Levu Islands, at High to Critical Threat level by 2030 (Chin et al., 2011).