January 2016 Conservation Update
Model Tied Down with Sharks to Create Surreal Shark Shepherd
This year, Ben Von Wong decided to tie a model underwater at Barefoot Kuata while sharks swam around to advocate for their protection. In the last 100 years, 90% of sharks have been exterminated from the oceans. Last year, 100 million sharks were killed.
The Barefoot team is so excited to have had the opportunity to work with Ben on this project and we hope that you will take 10 seconds to sign the petition:
Shot on the #Sony A7r-ii, with a 16-35mm in a Nauticam USA housing.
Photography: Von Wong
Video editing: Adam Frimer
Model: Amber Bourke
Underwater video operator: Steve Hathaway – Young Ocean Explorers
Dress Designer: Ali Charisma
Drone operator: Joost Glaser
Shark Expert: Thomas Vignaud
Dive Team: Lydia Murray, Kris Mcbride, Rachel Young, Carlo Acosta
Assist: Anna Tenne
Special thanks: Barefoot Collection, Tourism Fiji, Nauticam
Screenwriting: Yonatan Kanaskevich
Conservation partner: Shark Stewards — with Amber Bourke, David McGuire, Eric Cheng, Steve Hathaway, Adam Frimer, Thomas Vignaud, Lydia Murray, Anna Tenne and Gabi Strijp at Barefoot Kuata Island.
December 2015 Conservation Update
Barefoot Collection In The Spotlight With Award Nomination
Barefoot Collection In The Spotlight With Excellence Award Nomination For Tourism Sustainability
January 08, 10:52, 2016
Barefoot Manta Resort has operated a research station for manta rays and is actively involved in the protection of the species, working with both The Manta Trust and WWF since 2012.
The business has always been to find ways to run a sustainable commercial enterprise by enriching the communities and environment in which they operate.
Its efforts are being recognised and it is one of the finalists for ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards 2015 in the Tourism Sustainability Category.
The biggest tourism awards in Fiji will be announced on February 19 at the Denarau Convention Centre in Nadi.
The Barefoot Collection general manager, Maurice Strijp, said this was the first time for the nomination and they were humbled.
“We are immensely humbled to be shortlisted for this award, particularly considering the calibre of some of the other candidates, a few of whom have guided, helped and inspired our own efforts,” he said.
“Being placed in the spotlight for sustainability is an incredible responsibility.”
The Barefoot Collection is competing in the category with Beqa Adventure Divers, Castaway Island Resort, Kula Ecopark Fiji, Radisson Blu Resort Fiji, and Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa.
Mr Strijp said they have been nominated because of the creation of symbiotic relationships between guests, environment and community by the business.
They currently operate five dive centres in Fiji and two resorts in the Yasawas; Barefoot Manta and Barefoot Kuata.
“Our 6 marine biologists facilitate between nine and twelve projects across the business, and our product is focused on conservation, protection and restoration of natural resources on land and in the ocean,” Mr Strijp said.
From mangrove restoration to coral rejuvenation, the guests have a plethora of other projects to get involved in too.
The Barefoot Collection employs about 90 per cent of the staff from local villages and therefore run hospitality and marine training programmes for the local communities.
The business source produce from the villages where possible, train fish wardens and employ a host of sustainable business practices on the islands.
It is built on sharing the incredible natural beauty of the region and its people with the guests.
“The Barefoot Collection can only do this by taking responsibility to look after the people and environment seriously,” Mr Strijp said.
The company sees that the awards provide a platform to showcase the diversity of experiences that Fiji has to offer to the international and local community.
Mr Strijp said this is particularly for businesses like The Barefoot Collection, that operate in a fairly remote part of the country.
He said the positive reinforcement of being nominated provides the impetus to keep moving forward.
He said for the staff and communities, it provides recognition their hard work and commitment to upholding sustainable practices is not only important, but vital to all of the business’ success.
Mr Maurice believes it’s an exciting time for tourism in Fiji.
“Ecotourism and the idea of giving back to local communities is a global trend that has made its way to Fiji too,” he said.
“More than 80 per cent of our guests get involved in one of our many projects and support the villages.”
August 2015: Conservation Update
Barefoot Collection: A local experience with a global affect
Ian Campbell, Manager: Sharks – Restoring the Balance, WWF
PacificManta rays. One of the South Pacific’s iconic charismatic species. (Technically, there are two species of manta rays, but let’s not get bogged down in biology). In a region of the world that is predominantly ocean interspersed with small dots of land here and there, it’s not surprising that marine animals are some of the star attractions. Coming to the South Pacific you will have a good chance to encounter sharks, turtles, whales, dolphins and, if you head to either Kadavu or the Yasawas in Fiji, manta rays.
These gentle giants of the seas have fascinated those that come into contact with them in the wild, yet only a fraction is known about them. It was only as recently as 2009 that scientists discovered that there were two different species of mantas, the pelagic manta (Manta brirostris) found mainly offshore, and the reef manta (Manta alfredi) found in coastal waters. It is the reef mantas that congregate in the Yasawas island chain. Reef mantas have a docile nature and often aggregate around fringing reef systems, meaning they are accessible to divers and snorkelers. Yet all is not well.
Both species of mantas are classed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature on their Red List of endangered species. Global populations are declining and if these trends continue, then they could be facing a very real possibility of extinction. This global trend is compounded at the local level in places like Fiji as the government doesn’t have the manpower to monitor population levels or to police protected areas.
(Below: Manta gill rakers on sale in a Sri Lankan fish market. Photo courtesy WWF)
There are two main threats that mantas are facing. The biggest, by far, is overfishing, followed closely by loss of key habitats. Mantas are very vulnerable to fishing as they are slow growing, give birth infrequently and to a low number of young. Mantas, unlike fish such as tuna and mahi mahi, are not fished for their meat, which tends to be of low value, but mainly for their feathery gill plates. These are being marketed as having ancient medicinal properties despite there being no evidence to support these claims.
Manta species are now so vulnerable to over-exploitation that governments are trying to work together to provide international protection. Last year, the Fijian government, aided by WWF, proposed the reef manta for consideration for global protection under the international Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS). This proposal was accepted, and governments must now take steps to protect them. While this was a great achievement, it is only the first step, and now that global agreements are in place, there now needs to be a focus on national and local protection efforts. And it’s here that resorts like the Barefoot Collection are truly making a difference.
Above: Fiji delegation proposing international protection for mantas at CMS in Ecuador. Left to right ~ Arthur Sokimi, Aisake Batbasaga (Head of Delegation, Director of Fiji Fisheries), Saras Sharma, Ian Campbell (Technical advisor)
As I mentioned previously, many countries don’t have the ability to collect data within their territorial waters. Fisheries ministries in countries like Fiji only have limited budgets and manpower. WWF is working with governments and researchers around the world to develop methods of collecting and analysing enough data on sharks and rays for fisheries departments to produce sustainable conservation policies. At Barefoot Island, colleagues at the Manta Trust are working on a project which is providing much needed information on Fiji’s manta populations. As these fish are highly migratory, this information will have knock-on effects around the world.
Unlike many holiday resorts that claim to be ecotourism destinations, WWF are glad to see Barefoot employ dedicated marine biologists who, on top of their normal duties, work to protect the natural manta habitats. Over the coming weeks, WWF, The Manta Trust and Barefoot Island will be working with local communities, holiday operators, volunteers and the Fijian government, as well as governments throughout the Pacific, to provide maximum protection for the mantas and the reef system on which they depend. Collaboration is key, and at WWF we confident that, with a little effort and dedication, we can prevent these beautiful creatures disappearing for ever.
~ Ian Campbell
Manager: Sharks – Restoring the Balance
June 2015 Conservation Update
Heather Pacey ~ Resident Marine Biologist
The marine conservation team at Barefoot Manta Island has been hard at work these past few months. New Crown-of-Thorns (COTS) outbreak sites have recently been identified and the team has been sent in to remove as many individuals as possible. On one of these expeditions, a new record was set - 148 Crown-of-Thorns removed in one dive! The total number of COTS removed from surrounding reefs is now well over 5000 individuals to date.
On shore, the mangrove restoration program in Kese village is really taking off, with another 100 young mangroves transplanted on the riverside. On site, 300 more legumes (mangrove seeds) have been planted in the Barefoot Manta nursery. These mangroves will be moved to Kese in 4-6 months when they reach transplantable size.
Vinaka Fiji marine volunteers have been working hard on two significant projects at Barefoot: coral planting and sea cucumber aquaculture. In the past three months, thousands of coral fragments have been rescued from the sediment and have been replanted; either back into the reef or onto one of the coral tables in Barefoot Manta’s marine protected area. Nearly 2000 square meters of coral reef has been rejuvenated by the planting of these coral pieces!
Giant Clam Nursery
In an effort to minimize outbreaks in the future, Vinaka volunteers have also been assisting with Barefoot Manta Island’s giant clam nursery. Giant clams are thought to be one of the biggest predators of COTS as they have the ability to filter out the Crown-of-Thorns larvae while they are still drifting in the water column, before they settle on the reef. If COTS’ natural predators can be restored to healthy numbers, we won’t need to remove the spikey sea stars ourselves.
The four coral tables situated around the marine park are home to both hard and soft corals. Some of these corals on the tables will be used to replenish the Acropora sp. that have been lost due to cyclones and large storms. Other corals tables are dedicated to growing corals that are less abundant on the reef in an effort to diversify the reef ecosystem.
They may not be as glamorous as some of the other marine life, but they are critical to the biodiversity of the reef and its productivity. Sea cucumbers act as the earthworms of the sea, stirring up nutrients back into the water column, aerating the sediment, and completing an essential loop in the food chain.
Density counts carried out last year indicated that there was a significant lack of sea cucumbers on surrounding reefs. An aquaculture site has been set up at Barefoot Manta to monitor sea cucumber behavior and reproduction. In addition to this research, we are hoping that by containing them in a small, predator-free area, we will be able to increase successful reproduction and that these larvae will spill out onto nearby reefs.