Lau Islands FijiFiji Lau Islands
The Lau Group (Lau Islands) Fiji Islands | Beautiful Southern Lau Group - Fiji Islands
Fiji's Lau Archipelago (also known as the Lau Group, Eastern Group, Eastern Archipelago) lies in the South Pacific Ocean, just south of the Koro Sea. About thirty of this necklace of about sixty small and large island are populated. Lau Group has a surface area of 487 km2 and had 10,683 inhabitants in the last 2007 survey.
Most of the north Lau group are high volcanically originated islets, whereas the southern islets are mostly low-carbonated. In administrative terms, the archipelago belongs to the province of Lau.
The Lau Islands treasure
Your mission: to observe the sea creatures on the Lau Islands, an unannounced group of islands spread over thousand of sq. m. in the South Pacific. But they also looked for indications of the state of the water's natural state. As sea-heating is destroying the reef and fishing migration is increasing across the Pacific, management of the area will be critical to ensure its resistance to climatic changes - and to ensure that it continues to feed and sustain the tens of thousands the Lau Islands call home.
I was curious about our first dives in the clear water of the Lau Islands in southeast Fiji after almost a year of plan. Directly behind us were four more of our employees on board the sailing boat SV Viking, which was supposed to shade the major ship during the execution of investigations and film shots of whales and dolphins.
But the atmosphere was high as the Sea Rakino ploughed through rough sea and the crew checked science and dive logs. It had a strong sense of locality, which included employees of the Fiji Department of Fisheries, the Lau Provincial Council and the Fiji Locally Managed Naval Area Network. By 2016, the CI and its affiliates committed themselves to launching the Lau Seascape Initiative, which will allow Lau's municipalities, together with governmental and parochial bodies, to efficiently administer the abundant maritime resource of Lau in order to guarantee long-term nutritional safety and the well-being of the population.
On board the Rakino we sometimes fought to feed, slept and input dates as the vessel tossed back and forth, but the thrill of scuba dipping these little-explored coral corals kept the crew in a good mood. Every daily we started our poll at a new location, but there were a few things we thought about locally before we just went underground.
Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba, in his role as Paramount Chief (Roko Sau) of the Yasayasa Moala archipelago within the Lau Group, and a small retinue of the crew would respectably ask the locals for approval to div et their reef with a sevenusevu ceremonies - a custom when visiting a town.
As soon as approval was given, we didn't waste any of our day: three logged open water sessions, date input and a debriefing of the group. Our results, as anticipated, are a mixture of suspense and concern. The Lau Islands were fascinating from a biological diversity point of view: In the course of the study, we have identified 527 types of marine life, at least six new types and about 50 types of which are not known to be found in Fiji water.
Meanwhile, our corals experts have identified 206 types of corals, 10 to 20 of which are still trying to be identified. A number of corals were breathtaking, with more than 80 per cent living corals, while others were well below 20 per cent, showing evidence of earlier death from whitening and eruptions of thorn-crowned sea stars living on corals.
A number of coral life forms have grown strongly with the presence of cyanobacillia, an algae-like bacterium that may have been caused by the unbridled fishing of cucumber, which can be seen everywhere. Comercially important fish such as groupers and snappers were ubiquitous, but many of them showed clear over-fishing. It is important that 26 out of 28 study areas have seen coral corals; although they were never abundant, they were a good indication that the Lau coral corals as a whole are still healthy eco-systems that should recover quickly if properly maintained.
We were pampered with one of the most amazing dive sites I have seen for a long time: Navatu, a secluded Atollo under the usual rule of the near-by Vanua Vatu Isle. He surprised even the most experienced diver on the dive crew with sound corals, clear water and plenty of fishing.
On Roko Sau's face the joy was palpable when the diver from the diving showed up and spoke nervously about their watch. By noon, the Paramount CEO stated that he intends to make this breathtaking tunnel a Sea Conservation Area (MPA). All of us were happy to know, but I don't think any of us understand Roko Sau's determination - the next morning he summoned Tui Vanua, the chieftain of Vanua Vatu, and his own folk, and proclaimed the importance of Navatu's protection.
Navatu was formally designated MPA within 24 hrs of our amazing poll results. This was certainly a global factor in the rate of decisions on ocean conservation. At any rate, it was a clear sign of the dedication of Roko Sau and the Lau Islands to cultivate these coral corals for the good of their offspring and grandkids.
Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba and the Lau Archipelago's local authorities for conducting the poll, Matt Brooks and Pamela Rorke Levy for their generous sponsorship of the poll and Vaughan Wellington for using SV Viking.