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Conservation Efforts to Preserve Life Below Water

18 October 2018

Suva, Fiji – A new initiative designed to support marine ecotourism and the Sustainable Development Goal 14 was launched today, marking a new era in marine conservation. The South Pacific Tourism Organisation in partnership with Beqa Adventure Divers (BAD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with support from the Australian Government proudly launched the My Fiji Shark Initiative in Suva this morning.

With coastal pollution, overfishing and population growth, the oceans and the marine ecosystem are witnessing profound damage making the SDG 14 crucial for Fiji. There is optimism amongst scientists that new approaches to sustainable management and marine conservation can be found if traditional knowledge is complemented by science and technology. Hence, the My Fiji Shark Initiative is a new innovative model to support the partners’ efforts to realize this and raise the profile of marine conservation in the region.

“This initiative is a tool to mobilise resources through tourism to implement the SDG 14 ‘Life Below Water’ and support the ‘Blue Pacific’ identity as a driver for sustainable development in the region,” said Christopher Cocker, SPTO Chief Executive Officer.

“Our partnership is a demonstration of public-private sector engagement in the conservation of our marine resources.” Beqa Adventure Divers is a credible business with research work spanning over a decade to support the Shark Reef Marine Reserve.

“I recall the former President Toribiong of Palau saying, ‘If you look at the sharks in the ocean, they are the kings of sea, if you get the King you get the Kingdom’ when you adopt a shark, you have earned your place in the Fiji Shark Kingdom,” said Cocker.

The initiative is working closely with the Shark Reef Marine Reserve managed by Beqa Adventure Divers, a local shark research, conservation and ecotourism operator, to raise the profile of marine conservation in the region through a shark adoption program.

UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director and Head of Pacific Regional Policy and Programme, Bakhodir Burkhanov said, “Businesses globally have a big role to play in achieving the SDGs. Indeed, it will not succeed without private sector engagement and contributions. This initiative is all the more important as it targets SDG financing from – and with – the private sector.”

“'My Fiji Shark’ supports work towards achieving the SDG 14 on Life Below Water, specifically linked to marine ecotourism and involving an ‘Adopt a Shark’ campaign. It is symbolic that our first SDG private sector financing model and cause-related marketing campaign are about oceans and marine species.”

The initiative would mobilise resources by allowing sponsors to adopt individual sharks in their natural habitat. Several tiers of ‘adoption’ are being offered, with current proposals ranging from US$50 - US$10,000 for adoption by the general public, with varying packages of benefits.

BAD’s Head of Conservation and My Fiji Shark Program Coordinator, Natasha Marosi said, “We are incredibly proud of this initiative and deeply grateful to our partners and sponsors. The funds raised will hopefully allow us to stand ready to play our part in assisting Government to pursue the ambitious marine conservation and fisheries management goals it had announced at the 2017 Ocean Conference.

“Furthermore, this project will also help us in our continued efforts to change the public’s perception of these misunderstood animals. Sharks are beautiful, intelligent, and dynamic creatures with individual personalities and character traits much like you and I. Sharks are also globally threatened by overfishing and habitat loss and deserve all the help they can get.

She added, “Thankfully, Fiji’s shark populations are faring comparatively well to global populations. Fiji’s sharks are also the main attraction of a thriving niche product that has been shown to contribute more than FJ$80 million in sustainable income every year to Fiji’s ecotourism industry. We are a proud pioneer member of Fiji’s shark ecotourism industry.”

“Please help us nurture and preserve this unique and precious resource which has been part of Fijian culture since time immemorial and Adopt Your Shark Now.”

The launch was attended by representatives from government and non-government organisations that included the Ministry of Fisheries, Fiji Locally Managed Marin Area Network, WWF Pacific, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the media.

© Scoop Media

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