Vatu-i-Ra Conservation Park – Fiji

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Source: Volivoli Beach Resort

The Vatu-i-Ra Conservation Park boasts some of the most spectacular diving in Fiji, drawing divers from all over the world.

Many of the bommies and pinnacles are covered in vibrant soft corals and gorgonian sea fans, making the sites popular amongst dive photographers6. Strong currents in the Conservation Park bring large schools of fish, particularly around bommies and pinnacles.

There are seven very distinct dives on the Vatu-i-ra barrier reef, several of which are among the best coral reef dives in the world. The barrier reef protrudes north from Viti Levu into the Vatu-i-ra Channel, narrowing the channel to only 4.5 miles across. This is the same body of water that supports E-6 and Mt. Mutiny. Photo Credit: Nai'a live aboard

The Vatu-i-Ra Conservation Park encompasses Vatu-i-Ra Island and over 100 km2 of reefs, lagoons, terraces and pinnacles off the northern coast of Viti Levu. Vatu-i-Ra Island supports a multitude of breeding seabirds, earning it the nickname “Bird Island” and classification as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area.  The nine species of seabirds that call the island home include black noddies (Anous tenuirostris), red-footed and brown boobies (Sula sula and Sula leucogaster), lesser frigatebirds (Fregata ariel) and several species of tern.

Dolphins, whales, sea turtles and over 100 species of fish populate the diverse marine ecosystems surrounding the island. Some coral reefs in the Conservation Park were damaged by Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016, making the continued protection of both unharmed and damaged reefs all the more important.

The Conservation Park was established to protect the remarkable biodiversity of both its marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and to preserve its cultural history. The “spillover” effect from high fish populations within the park will also benefit the traditional fishing ground (qoliqoli) of Cokovata Nakorotubu. Nearly 80% of Vatu-i-Ra Conservation Park is a “no-take” zone, including all of Vatu-i-Ra Island. The remainder of the park is a “catch-and-release” zone open to sustainable, recreational fishing.

Location and boundaries of the Vatu-i-Ra Conservation Park

Objectives of the Vatu-i-Ra Conservation Park

  • Protect the unique biodiversity of the island and the surrounding reefs;
  • Protect the unique cultural history of the area;
  • Protect critical breeding grounds for fish so that the ‘spillover’ from this Conservation Park supports community fisheries in the adjacent qoliqoli Cokovata Nakorotubu;
  • To establish a voluntary mechanism through sustainable tourism, that will ensure the sustainable financing of the Conservation Park while supporting the sustainable development of resource owners.
  • To establish the Vatu-i-Ra as the leading Conservation Park for the Fiji and the wider South Pacific.
Mount Mutiny is a seamount. It’s named in honor of Captain Bligh, who charted it as he passed nearby shortly after the mutiny on the Bounty. Photo Credit: Nai'a live aboard

The People

Vatu-i-Ra Island is traditionally owned by the Nagilogilo clan, while the surrounding waters fall within the qoliqoli Cokovata Nakorotubu. The island is highly culturally important, and has been monitored and managed for invasive species since 2007 by the Nagilogilo clan with the support of BirdLife International. Villages in the region are dependent on their environment, relying on fish and sea cucumbers for income and sustenance. Qoliqoli Cokovata Nakorotubu is involved in the management of the park, and benefits from the spillover effect the park has on its fisheries.

A seamount rising sheer-sided from 3,000ft right in the center of the narrowest part of Bligh Water's Vatu-i-ra channel, E-6 intercepts the flow of nutrients funneled between the two large islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Extraordinary diving! Photo Credit: Nai'a live aboard

Tourism

Tourism is highly dependent on the aesthetics of land and surrounding seascapes, and rich biodiversity of marine species. These are tourism operators, Nai ’a Cruises Fiji, Volivoli Beach Resort, and Wananavu Beach Resort that frequently visited and support the Vatu-i-Ra Conservation Park.

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June 29, 2018 |

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