February 19, 2018
Sara and James, our Dive Masters in training (DMTs) are now halfway through their stay and well in to the courses. They are currently completing the mapping exercise and have recorded the house reef in detail. But this isn’t the first time they’ve documented the undersea world. Just a couple months the were working at a marine research base on the island of Cagalai helping to accumulate baseline data on the condition of the reef.
Two years ago, large storms disturbed much of the reef around Cagalai. The research Sara and James assisted with looked at the density of fish, invertebrates, soft and hard corals and more. The information gathered will help to map out the reef around Cagalai. They will then present the data back to the villages on the island to allow them to decide where to have their marine protected areas (MPAs), or tabu areas where no fishing will be allowed to let the reef recover. Sara said that their were patches of reef that were still really good and she could see where the reef was bouncing back. She is hoping to return to Cagalai after her DMT course at Paradise to continue the research. She says she was doing about two dives a day, five days a week for three months and did around 100 dives while there. So you can understand why she would want to go back.
James worked underwater on the research team but also spent a lot of time in the local schools teaching about marine ecology and rubbish. He started with grades 1-4, mostly 6-7 year olds, which was a bit difficult due to the language barrier as they were just then learning English. But, he said he had more success with grades 5-8, those aged 10-11, who seemed to get it. The main focus of his teaching was understanding what was living, what was part of the natural environment, and what wasn’t – basically, why we want to keep the rubbish out of the ocean. Community meetings were also occurring within the villages and the whole effort was leading to the opening of a recycling center with songs and entertainment provided by the school kids to celebrate.
In addition, there were beach clean-ups, underwater clean-ups that collected a lot of fishing line. Sara says her favorite were the opistobranch surveys to look for nudibranchs. Often, she would find a whole family of nudibranchs together and find 6-8 different types on one survey. Both are great divers and are sure to become Dive Masters with ease. Paradise is pleased to host two divers who have done some great work for Fiji.