WHAT DOES THE PROJECT DO?
Sharks are critical to the functioning of our ecosystems, regulating the natural balance in their role as top predators. Shark populations are under great threat from fishing, persecution, habitat destruction and climate change. The aim of the Frontier-Fiji Shark Conservation Project is to increase the understanding of shark populations around the island of Beqa, where data is known to be deficient, this information is vital for successful management strategies and shark conservation. We are determining the amount of species present, the abundance of those species, their behaviour and the structure of the populations. This information is vital in understanding the health of the local shark population and how at risk they are from certain human and environmental threats. In addition to scientific data collection Frontier is working with local communities to raise awareness regarding the importance of sharks and help them to make informed decisions regarding the management of their coastal ecosystems for the protection of sharks.
To achieve this mission, we conduct scientific surveys on reefs occupied by sharks, investigating their population assemblage in relation to the marine habitat to better understand their population dynamics, behaviour and to better protect the species locally and internationally. Once population levels are determined and we have identified the factors contributing to either a decline in or enhancement of shark numbers, this information can be fed back to marine experts to assist in successful management strategies and we can we can increase our work with local communities; building awareness of the value and vulnerability of local shark populations and working to increase protections.
WHAT WILL I BE DOING?
The marine research and conservation programme is run in association with The University of the South Pacific. The work aims to provide the local stakeholders, research organisations and government bodies with the information they need to design and implement management plans for the future protection of shark populations and their habitat around Beqa island and lagoon.
To gather the data needed you will be diving in areas known to be frequented by sharks and studying their diversity and behaviour (if necessary you will learn to dive first). You will explore the surrounding coral ecosystems to determine what factors are contributing to changes in the shark population, such as, availability of food, pollution levels and the health of the coral reefs. To do this you will record the diversity of many fish and marine invertebrate species, assess diversity and cover of coral species, alongside recording various environmental factors. The aim is to better understanding the population dynamics in the area and increasing protections of these endangered and poorly understood species. Frontiers scientific research techniques involve roaming survey dives and line intercept transects for assessment of fish, invertebrate species as well coral diversity. In addition to working with the local shark populations you will also get the chance to carry out surveys on many ecologically and commercially important species of fish and invertebrate, from colourful little nudibranchs to the exploited snappers and groupers, you will be part of surveys assessing the general health of marine habitats, all being of great importance to local shark populations. The type of field work underway will depend on the time of year and the content of the research program when you join up and how long you are joining for. With so much to learn it's worth noting that those joining for only a few weeks will be training most of the time and may not get to do a lot of surveying.
Whilst diving, you'll see an extraordinary array of animals in addition to several species of shark; from turtles to manta rays, sea cucumbers to feathery starfish, spiny urchins to octopus and jellyfish. When you motor out on the Frontier boats to distant dive sites you may even encounter rays, humpback whales or flying fish. By the end of your project you will be expert in identifying several species of shark and will have knowledge regarding their ecology and conservation. You will also be able to identify vast numbers of colourful and patterned reef fish, marine invertebrates and coral, as well as being an experienced and competent diver. Although the work is intense and challenging you'll get immense satisfaction from contributing to the conservation of these iconic, yet endangered species. You will return home with the new friends you've made and a wealth of fascinating stories and memories.
You'll find your team to be a fun, dynamic mix of ages and experiences, with members who all share a passion about sharks, saving endangered marine life and travelling in developing countries. Your staff will be young, friendly individuals who are experienced in their field and many have volunteered on a Frontier project earlier in their career.
What Next? Apply Now!