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

Published on
03 September 2022

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

CA Ward-Paige, H Sykes, GJ Osgood, J Brunnschweiler


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 (GFSC) to document sharks on their dives.

Methods Using 146,304 shark observations from 30,668 dives, we document spatial and temporal patterns of eleven 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 BRUVs. 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.

bioRxiv. DOI: 10.1101/2022.08.31.505463


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