Long-term protection of Whales & Dolphins in Fiji

May 31, 2013

Marine Awareness and Resource Management Training

GVI’s Marine Science team decided to coordinate a ‘Fish Warden, Marine Awareness and Resource Management Training Workshop’ after completing intial awareness evenings in Enendala, Malakati, Matacawalevu, Matayalevu, Nacula, Naisisili, Navatua, and Vuaki villages. Previous and existing marine management plans had been discussed with these communities in order to see what had been achieved and what had failed over the last seven years. The principles of marine management where explained to refresh and inspire community involvement. Communities identified poaching within taboo areas as a major problem in the Tikina Nacula. 

Cathedral Reef is a dive site in the centre of The Yasawa Group, where two dive operations run a shark feeding dive. There are sightings of up to 9 shark species. Local dive operators requested the assistance of GVI after reporting the presence of commercial fishing vessels in the area. Working in conjunction with the support of the local community and dive operators, GVI proposed training local resort dive instructors, divemasters and boat drivers as fish wardens so that such reefs could be policed. By retaining traditional ownership of local reefs it is hoped these area will be protected and managed by relevant local communities.

In order to formalise the awareness and decisions of the communities with regards to the above issues the Fish Warden Training workshop was designed to empower communities with further training to help them monitor and manage their marine assets and ultimately their food security. GVI approached the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries and Forests and an agreement was made to collaborate to create an informative training session for the district. GVI agreed to fund all aspects of the workshop and arranged for the transport and accommodation of all relevant stakeholders and trainers from the Ministry of Fisheries.


Mar 8, 2013

Fiji Cyclone Evan update

Food distribution
Food distribution

On Dec 17th 2012 the Fiji Islands were bombarded by a Category 4 Cyclone, gusting up to 270km/H and causing widespread damage across the island group. The eye of Cyclone Evan passed directly through the region of the Yasawa Islands where GVI has been working since June 2011, damaging infrastructure and destroying crops. The communities in the remote Yasawan Islands rely heavily on rainwater catchment and subsistence farming to provide food and water to the population. The damage caused by Cyclone Evan compromised both water and food security in the region significantly increasing the vulnerability of the island communities. In the aftermath of the cyclone GVI has been able to provide resources, funding and volunteer labour to assist the communities in their recovery.

Although all 9 villages that GVI has been working with were affected by the cyclone, reports from community members across the region suggested that Naisisili had experienced some of the most extensive damage in the Nacula Takina and was the first village to receive assistance from GVI. In order to assess the needs of the community GVI volunteers interviewed families and carried out visual inspections of damaged rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems. For each household the volunteers gathered information on family size and income, as well as assessing the structural damage to houses and the status of each families access to food and water provisions. From these discussions volunteers were also able to determine whether the families had already received aid from the government or other organizations and if they had begun to re-plant their crops.

After assessing all sixty-four families in Naisisili, it became apparent that food security was the community’s immediate concern.  Although the Fiji government had provided the village with adequate food in the early aftermath of the cyclone, those rations were now running low and DISMAC efforts needed to be focused on assisting severely damaged villages on Yasawa-i-Rawa Island. GVI informed Government officials of GVI’s capacity to assist and was given the go ahead to take action.  From the information gathered in the needs assessment, the volunteer team was able to calculate the quantity of food aid needed to help supplement current supplies in Naisisili whilst they waited for their crops to recover.

Using donations from the Charitable Trust, GVI was able to deliver 1964kg of dry food, which included flour, rice, lentils and sugar to our Yasawa Base for distribution. In Naisisili GVI worked with the village spokesman to distribute 4kg of flour, 2kg of rice, 1 kg of lentils and 500g of sugar per household, with extra rations given to the largest families and those who cannot work, such as the elderly or sick. A total of 495kg of food was distributed in Naisisili, and GVI completed repairs on 10 RWH systems.

The remaining 1469 Kg was then distributed across seven further villages by replicating the same needs assessment methodology used for Naisisili and in total GVI was able to provide food aid to 200 families. GVI volunteers were also able to carry out further maintenance on damaged RHW tanks and the repairs to a total of 25 RWH systems in the region has restored the ability to collect and store over 100,000L of drinking water. Through the GVI Charitable Trust almost $6000 FJD was fundraised to help fund these Disaster Relief Operations thanks to GVI’s network of donors and ex-volunteers.

Two local primary schools  also required assistance in re-opening for the new school year.  At Ratu Meli Memorial School, which is the site of GVI Fiji’s Education Project, Cyclone Evan destroyed the roof of the boy’s dormitory and knocked down one of the walls in the school hall. The classrooms also suffered water damage, with the majority of the textbooks being ruined. Fortunately, AusAid has been extremely active in the area, providing generous grants to help affected schools recover as quickly as possible. GVI volunteers have been active on the ground, cleaning the classrooms, compiling an inventory of the damaged school materials and repairing the school RWH systems. The inventory has been used by the Headmistress to prioritise the allocation and application  of AusAid funds. Nasomolevu Catholic School was not as severely damaged by the cyclone but there was still need for substantial repairs to the RWH systems.

Although GVI has made considerable progress in tackling the short term problems caused by Cyclone Evan, the communities of the Yasawas are still recovering. GVI will continue to repair the RWH systems that were damaged as part of the ongoing assessments of water security. GVI has also secured a major book donation that will supply enough books to contribute to both Ratu Meli’s and Nasomolevu’s library, replacing those that were lost. Finally, GVI is now working with the village communities to help replant vegetable gardens and crops. The gardens will provide a variety of vegetables for the community, facilitating a more nutritious diet and improving long term food security.

This information was provided to the Fiji Government, The Red Cross and relevant organisations in order to ensure data on GVI’s collaboration with Disaster Relief efforts was reported in keeping with DISMAC planning.

Damage at RMMS
Damage at RMMS


Dec 28, 2012

Cyclone Evan

On 17th December 2012, Severe Tropical Cyclone Evan hit the Fijian islands, causing catastrophic damage. Damaging heavy waves, rain and thunderstorms including severe flash flooding hit the Yasawas and Western Division. The Yasawas islands, where the GVI Charitable Trust work, was severely affected. Winds exceeding 125 mph brought down trees, blocking roads and blowing away homes/roofs with widespread power and water outages. Many have already lost all their belongings. Major flooding is a high concern with powerful swells hitting the coastal communities and more rains to come.

On the Whale & Dolphin project, we work wth a number of local staff and support the surrounding communities of the Moon Reef area in the District of Dawasamu. The local community will gain a greater understanding of sustainable management practices and we will help them to develop sustainable alternative livelihoods including new ecotourism projects which will be 100% community owned and operated. Local Schoolchildren will grow up with the knowledge and tools available to make more informed choices about living sustainably and how to protect their beautiful, natural environment.

Over the coming months, the focus will be based on helping the communities face a long, slow rebuilding process. As such, the GVI Charitable Trust has set up a specific project to raise funds to supply immediate basic requirements such as food, clean water and shelter whilst assisting long term recovery efforts in the Yasawas - http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/cyclone-evan-fiji/

Thank you for your support for this project in 2012, we look forward to being in touch in 2013!


Oct 11, 2012

Digital Projector Purchase

During the Third Phase of the Spinner Dolphin Research project, the GVI Charitable Trust funded a new digital projector to assist in both the training of volunteer researchers and the dissemination of information to local stakeholders on the status of their marine assets and the results of the ongoing research into the Spinner Dolphin pod that have inhabited the sacred Moon Reef for as long as most villagers can remember.

The Digital projector has enabled Dr Cara Miller of WDCS and the GVI research team to present information, data, and educational videos to the community in an accessible and attractive way during info and awareness evenings. The projector is also an integral tool during the initial training of volunteers and is used to show in large format the detail of dorsal id images and photo-id methodology.  

GVI and WDCS would like to thank the donors that enabled the purchase of this important asset for our programs in the Dawasamu District.

Aug 23, 2012

Marine Update

The GVI marine research team here on the Tovoto base in the Yasawa’s have had a great couple of weeks. On top of our regular activities of training and surveying, the unusually calm sea conditions have meant that we’ve been able to go on some excellent fun dives. In the past two weeks we’ve seen sharks, turtles, sea snakes, lobsters and eels, as well as the usual hundreds of brightly coloured fish and coral.

So far the best two (though there are lots to choose from) have been at the dive sites called Bonzai and Cathedral. Bonzai is a deep dive site where whales have recently been spotted. It is a beautiful wall dive 7km straight out into the ocean. To the right is a colourful reef wall while to the left and below is the deep blue ocean. Because of the depth below and good visibility the feeling of flying is particularly strong here. Before getting in the water we spotted something whale-like near the surface so the anticipation on the dive itself was almost overwhelming. Sadly we didn’t see any whales, but it was still an amazing dive. While we’re on the subject of amazing dives, Cathedral has to get a mention. We’ve been twice in the past two weeks and it is without doubt the best dive site I have ever been to. The abundance, size and variety of the fish there surpass all others I’ve seen. On top of that it’s a shark feeding site which means it literally is shark infested! On our first dive there we must have seen about 30 sharks: black tips, white tips, grey reef sharks and two 3 metre bull sharks. After diving there, the name becomes clear – just as the massive cathedrals of old would inspire people to believe in God, coming face to face with an adult bull shark suddenly makes prayer seem like a much more appealing pastime.
In spite of all these fun dives, the marine team has still found the time to do plenty of work. The team has been split into two with Andrea, Jacson and Phoebe doing rescue diver training and Nicola and I collecting data on surveys. The rescue training has been taking place on the picturesque blue lagoon beach under the supervision of our training and safety officer Ron. With his stage name of Alice, Ron seems to particularly enjoy his role as panicked diver. I’m still doubtful whether there’s ever been such a merciless panicked diver as Alice. Her devastatingly precise flailing limbs rarely leave the rescuer with a mask or a regulator by the end, but in their place is a newly found sense of caution when diving near Ron. Nevertheless, the rescuers usually manage to subdue Alice and still have time to relax on the beach before heading back to base.
Surveying has been equally exciting. Surveying usually consists of laying down a tape measure and recording what sort of life is around. On one memorable survey, I was tapped on the shoulder by my buddy Nicola, only to look up and find myself eye to eye with a large Moray Eel. After doing a small panicked diver impersonation of my own I managed to continue with the survey, albeit from a distance. Unfortunately the eel seemed to have a black sense of humour and took particular joy in disappearing for long stretches of the survey, only to reappear out of an unlikely hole that was invariably somewhere close to my head.

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Project Leader

Ross Deans

Exeter, Devon United Kingdom

Where is this project located?

Map of Long-term protection of Whales & Dolphins in Fiji