Published on April 11, 2024

Preserving Fiji's Marine Heritage for Future Generations

Impact Story: by UNDP Ecosystems and Biodiversity, edited by the Joint SDG Fund

For Senimili, a 27-year-old scientist from Fiji, her family ancestry has always been intricately connected to the marine environment.

"My elders taught me to always think of others and not only about myself. They taught me to take care of the marine environment for the sake of those who depend on it."


Saqani village is located on Natewa Bay in Cakaudrove Province, on Fiji’s second-largest island of Vanua Levu. The effects of climate change and rising sea levels on Saqani village and coastal communities across Fiji are wide-ranging, many of whom depend on the ocean and its ecosystem as a key source of their livelihood. Taking care of Fiji's marine environment, including its coral reefs and wildlife, has become an increasingly urgent priority for the islands.

As the lead scientist of the Fiji Shark Conservation project, researching one of the ocean’s most feared and misunderstood predators, Senimili is playing an important part in these efforts to protect marine wildlife across the islands. Sharks are the top predators in the marine food chain and play a vital role in maintaining the fragile ecosystem. Their extinction would have devastating consequences for the marine and human environment, leading to an increase in algae which would be fatal to the islands' coral reefs.

Based in Pacific Harbour, the Fiji Shark Conservation Project collaborates with an international volunteering organisation called ‘Projects Abroad,’ addressing the needs of the local community by protecting marine ecosystems and livelihoods. Senimili has been part of this project for the past five years as part of a broader series of ‘Blue Investment’ initiatives.

In early 2021, UN agencies UNDP, UNCDF, and UNEP joined forces with the Government of Fiji, Matanataki, Blue Finance, and various other local actors to launch the Investing in Coral Reefs and the Blue Economy programme. This joint programme, funded by the Global Fund for Coral Reefs and the Joint SDG Fund, harnesses philanthropic and development finance to mobilise commercial investments, promote the financial sustainability of coral reef conservation, and accelerate reef-positive livelihoods.

The programme also works to establish a coral farm within the Shark Reef Marine Reserve off the southern coast of Fiji’s Viti Levu island, building and installing coral farm racks, which will be populated via collection and planting of healthy coral stocks adapted to local conditions.

This project is complemented by the re-establishment of a mangrove nursery, which has raised thousands of seedlings that will eventually be planted to help prevent coastal zone erosion.

Looking ahead to the future, Senimili emphasised the importance of mobilising younger generations across Fiji in efforts to conserve the islands' marine ecosystem.

“In the future, I would like to see a lot of youths taking part in conservation activities, to build groups, clusters, and work together to protect fishes that are endangered and threatened.

Thanks to programme funding, young people at Projects Abroad in Fiji are doing just that: taking action and participating in conservation.

For Senimili, this work is also helping her be a good ancestor to future generations.


Originally published by UNDP Ecosystems & Biodiversity



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