By Kelly Thomas Brown
Bula from Fiji! I’m Kelly Thomas Brown and I am a local shark researcher at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, our capital city.
I am undertaking a Master of Science in Marine Science degree under the theme of biodiversity and conservation of reef-associated sharks in Fiji. Included in my research objectives is a comparison of reef shark densities and habitats in a marine protected area and a non-protected area. I will also attempt to identify a shark nursery area in the hope of protecting that area from any form of shark fishing.
While doing background research on sharks in Fiji, I was surprised to find that there was no previous research on sharks at my university and that not much is known scientifically about Fiji sharks, with only indirect data sources coming from mentions in general coral reef surveys, fisheries export data and tourism-related activities.
In some areas of Fiji, tradition reveres sharks as totems and shark fishing is prohibited. My paternal and maternal family links to the provinces of Cakaudrove and Kadavu, respectively, are included in these areas. The fact that there is no legislation protecting sharks in Fiji, mainly because of the lack of scientific data, convinced me to undertake shark research, in the hope of providing some form of reliable data to back-up management proposals at the national level.
The Pew Environment Group, the Coral Reef Alliance and the Fiji Fisheries Department have started a shark awareness and conservation campaign in Fiji in the hope that more Fiji citizens are made aware of the need to conserve our shark populations and I am fortunate to be included in the campaign.
Throughout my research work in the field, I will be posting updates on Shark Defenders and on the Facebook page Fiji Shark Defenders, in the hope that you will join me as I attempt to learn more about these awesome marine animals in the islands of Fiji!
Kelly Thomas Brown is a Masters candidate at the University of South Pacific and is the Manager of Fiji Shark Defenders.