Marine Conservation

The Marine Conservation Team at Barefoot Manta Island (previously Barefoot Island Lodge) is made up of Marine Biologists, Reef Safari employees, resort guests and Vinaka Fiji volunteers. There’s always plenty to keep the team busy and some great projects are well underway. 

Musgrove Nursery
Manta Ray Coral Planting
 Musgrove Nursery  Manta Ray Study  Coral Planting

Planting a Mangrove Nursery

We’ve been working to restore the mangroves. Mangrove forests are essential to reef productivity. Numerous species of fish and invertebrates depend on these areas as natural recruitment zones for their offspring. The shallow, calm waters around mangroves offer ample protection from predators and rough weather.  With such extensive root systems, mangroves are able to stabilise shorelines, minimise erosion and even accrete land in the form of mud flats and wetlands as they collect lose sediments. We plant the mangrove plants in the Barefoot nursery and once they’ve grown 6 leaves they’re transplanted to areas where the mangroves have been damaged or destroyed.

Manta ray Behavioral and Population Study

Manta rays visit the offshore channel of Barefoot Manta every year between the months of May through October. They’ve been observed feeding on plankton, cleaning, and carrying out courtship behavior while in the area. They are most commonly sighted during the high tide and as many as fourteen individuals can show up at one time. The Marine Conservation Team and a representative of the “Manta Trust” have set-up a formal identification and behavioral study to monitor these fascinating ocean dwellers.

The ongoing study will determine if the same population is returning each year, how many individuals are using this area, if their behavior is consistent with other manta rays globally, whether their habitat is suitable, where they go during the day during manta ray season, where they reside outside of manta ray season, and what unique aspects of the channel bring them to the channel in the first place.

Sea Cucumber
Sea Cucumber

Sea Cucumber
Sea Cucumber Breeding Program

Sea Cucumber Breeding Program

The Marine Conservation Team have taken a special interest in sea cucumbers. At first, they may only resemble a large slug, but they deserve another look. Sea cucumbers play a crucial role in the ecosystem, like the earthworms they recycle the nutrients in the sediment that would otherwise be lost to the rest of the food chain. Despite their unbecoming looks, they’ve made their way on to many local and Asian menus. Such a large demand has led to severe population decline and dangerous fishing practices. We hope to reduce fishing pressures on the ecosystem and minimise loss of life by setting up a breeding program. Three species have also been selected to investigate the possibilities of asexual and sexual reproduction.

Coral Planting and Reef Rejuvenation

The Marine Conservation Team are coral planting as part of our Reef Rejuvenation Project. Small fragments of coral are collected from the reef and rooted onto a metal frame. They are left to grow for approximately 6 months and then transplanted into degraded areas on the reef. This increases the dispersal of coral and creates additional habitats for reef residents. An extensive rejuvenation project has also been carried out on South Sea Island.

Coral Planting
Giant Clam Farm

Giant Clam Farm

 Coral Planting Giant Clam Farm Giant Clam Farm

Giant Clam Farm 

Clams are one of the most beautiful things to come across while snorkeling or diving on a coral reef. Along with their beauty, they play an essential role in this ecosystem. They’re the natural filters of the ocean. Corals need clean, nutrient free water to grow. Therefore a plentiful clam population is ideal for coral reef prosperity. 

Fiji’s clam numbers are currently quite low due to overharvesting. In the 1960’s the Giant Clam even became extinct. It has now been successfully re-introduced into Fijian waters and Makogai Island is currently culturing this clam along with others, in an attempt to reintroduce and disperse them throughout Fiji. The Marine Conservation Team at Barefoot Manta has joined this nationwide project and hosts 3 different clam species, including the Giant Clam with the potential to grow to 1.5 meters.

Crown-of-Thorn Monitoring

The Crown-of-Thorn Seastar (COTS) is a predatory seastar natural to coral reefs. It preys on the polyps of coral and plays an important role on the reef by ‘trimming’ fast growing corals, allowing room for other coral species to settle and grow. However, in unnaturally high populations seastars can have a devastating impact on a coral reef. Many areas in Fiji are currently facing a COTS infestation. Scientists believe this overpopulation is due to a combination of contributing factors including over-fishing (lowering the number of natural COTS predators), warming ocean temperatures and elevated nutrient levels in the water. The Marine Conservation Team monitor COTS numbers regularly. If we find an unsustainable number on the reef, we will remove them to avoid a potential infestation. By regularly monitoring the reef we are able to react quickly if a problem arises in COTS numbers. We can also use this information to disseminate knowledge about COTS outbreaks with interested groups around the globe.

Crown of Thorns

Reef Check

Reef Check

 Crown-of-Thorn Monitoring  Reef Check  Reef Check

Reef Check Fiji

The Marine Conservation Team conduct Reef Check Surveys to provide an insight into the health of the reef and we collect this data by snorkeling or Scuba diving (depending on reef depth).

The surveys help us to,

  • Compare sites within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to sites outside MPAs.
  • Assess the relative abundance and size distribution of target species, which over a given period of time will indicate changes in the composition of a specific reef.
  • Determine how newly proposed MPAs will respond to rehabilitation efforts.
  • Identify if the reef is in need of assistance.
  • Provide valuable ongoing information into general patterns and coral reef history.