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Shark Life and Sanctuary in Fiji

First 50th Anniversary Research Seminar on
Shark Life and Sanctuary in Fiji

The University of the South Pacific (USP) started its 50th Anniversary Research Presentation Series with an interactive presentation entitled, “Endangered Hammerhead and Vulnerable Bull Sharks find Life and Sanctuary in Fiji” by Professor Ciro Rico, Head of School of Marine Studies (SMS) and Project Team Leader.

The Presentation, which was held on 28 February 2018 at the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies (OCACPS) attracted Fiji government officials, community members, villagers, secondary school teachers, private sector representatives, researchers, staff and students of the University.

In his presentation Professor Rico talked about the main findings of the Coastal Shark Conservation Research Project that they have been conducting at USP since 2014.

Sharks, Professor Rico highlighted are among the most vulnerable fishes in the world because they have late age of maturity, low fecundity and long life span.
The University’s role, he emphasised is mainly to provide the baseline data and scientific advice to the Governments, owners of the qoliqoli and stakeholders of the areas.

“The decision to protect something comes from them, but certainly they cannot protect something if they do not know what they have and how vulnerable is what they have,” Professor Rico stated.

So, he added, the University’s role is to provide such data so that they could make informed decisions.

Professor Rico’s team comprised three (3) volunteers (two (2) from Projects Abroad and one from Frontier Fiji Marine); Dr Cara Miller from the School of Chemical and Biological Sciences, for statistical analysis; Dr Susanna Piovano from SMS for fisheries science; and Professor Martin Zimmer from the University of Bremen for isotope analysis.

The researchers have been looking at the use of coastal species, mainly Scalloped and Great Hammerhead, Bull and Blacktip Sharks of the estuaries, deltas and river-mouths of Fiji.

The objective of their research was to determine the use and exploitation of sharks in the country and also the ecology and reproductive biology of these species in those areas.

“Where they breed, how long do they spend in the breeding grounds and particularly in the nursery ground where they are protected from predators, were some of the questions we looked into,” Professor Rico said.

The Head of School said that their project was successful with the foundational support of the University’s Research Office through the Strategic Research Themes (SRTs) and acknowledged the grants received on researches conducted on the Bull Sharks and Hammerhead Sharks separately, totalling up to FJD 250, 000.

“This platform allowed us to carry out all the work which is quite expensive and extensive. Going out to the sea for forty (40) hours per month is easier said than done,” he commented.

On a normal day, it takes the team two (2) hours to reach the sampling point and conduct six (6) hours of fishing, so a total of ten (10) hours are spent at sea per day.

“The total number of fishermen, boat and students or researchers who worked was probably three (3) times than that, so a total of one hundred and twenty hours (120) per month, at a cost of around FJD 60 per hour,” Professor Rico explained.
He congratulated the University on its 50th Anniversary and said that a great and excellent University is based on the pillars of quality teaching, research and its contribution to the community.

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