Reef to Community: Sustaining Our Future Through Partnership and Conservation

February 21, 2024

Shark Reef Marine Reserve; absence and depletion of shark numbers will reflect various stages of degraded reefs, which support little to no biodiversity as species simply cannot thrive in compromised conditions

Photo: Beqa Adventure Divers

Galoa, Fiji - Coral reefs are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems on the planet, supporting a myriad of marine life and providing crucial ecosystem services to millions of people worldwide. 


However, coral reefs are facing unprecedented threats, including climate change, overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction. 


In response to these challenges, initiatives such as Investing in Coral Reefs and the Blue Economy project have emerged, aiming to not only conserve these ecosystems but to also sustainably harness their economic potential through community engagement and the provision of blended finance solutions. 


The Investing in Coral Reefs and the Blue Economy project is a joint initiative between the Joint Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Fund and the Global Fund for Coral Reefs that seeks to create a blended finance facility to mobilize private and public investment capital for initiatives that have a positive impact on Fijian coral reefs and the communities that rely on them. 


The long-term ambition of the project is to improve economic opportunities and lessen environmental impacts to 70,000 people living in some of Fiji’s most-vulnerable coastal communities. 


It is through this project that a partnership was established between the new Fiji Shark Lab, Galoa Village in Serua, Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji, exemplifying the integration of conservation efforts with socio-economic development. 


Recognizing the economic potential of coral reefs, the concept of the blue economy has gained prominence. The blue economy emphasizes sustainable development through the conservation and responsible use of marine resources, integrating economic growth with environmental protection and social inclusion. 

The Blue Economy continues to play an important role in providing food, jobs, and establishing livelihoods for millions of people around the world – particularly here in the Pacific – with our oceans estimated to generate up to US$3 trillion in economic activity each year at the global level by 2030.

Looking at Fiji alone, the country's Exclusive Economic Zone is 70 percent larger than its landmass and is ranked as the 26th largest sovereign ocean space in the world. Fiji is also home to close to four percent of the world’s coral reefs and over 65,000 hectares of mangroves that make up some of the many features of the country’s rich marine biodiversity.

The above serves as the impetus for why we should be investing in the protection of our coral reefs, with healthy reefs fundamental to the prosperity of coastal communities and their economies. 


Helping protect their own backyard


Galoa Village, nestled along the coastline adjacent to the Shark Reef Marine Reserve, is a small, coastal community whose livelihoods are intricately linked to the health of the marine environment. 


Fishing is the primary source of income for the villagers, providing sustenance and economic opportunities for generations. However, unsustainable fishing practices and environmental degradation threaten to jeopardize the long-term viability of Galoa's marine resources, threatening the community's well-being.


Most recently, through the facilitation of Beqa Adventure Divers, a fish warden training was conducted by the Ministry of Fisheries, equipping 10 village members with the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively manage and safeguard their fishing grounds, including the renowned reserve – one of Fiji's four gazetted marine protected areas.


Village Head man, or Turaga ni Koro, Adre Tabuivalu was adamant that the training was necessary, enabling village members to be enforcers of the law and to effectively protect their fishing arounds. 

Galoa Village Head Man, Adre Tabuivalu expressed the importance and timeliness of the training to village members considering the constant illegal poaching that is occurring.

Photo: UNDP

“Poachers frequent our fishing grounds, and it is quite concerning. People come from afar to do this. Even in the middle of the night as we watch from shore, we can see their lights and hear the commotion, but we are unable to do anything,” he said. 


Jacqueline Nalomaca, an officer from the Compliance Unit of Inshore Fisheries Management Division, said that enforcement was key, but knowledge of Fiji Fisheries Act (1941) was paramount. 


“Because they (Fish Wardens) are going to be enforcing the Fisheries Act, it is critical that they are aware of the offences they are on the lookout for and how to react. There are less things that you’re not allowed to do compared to what you are allowed to do,” she said. 


Women from the village also gathered in the village hall, listening intently in support of the trainees, where it was evident that interest in the project had generated a rippling effect throughout the community. 


“We [the women] are equally affected by illegal activities that go on in our fishing grounds and but there are also Fisheries laws that also apply to us that we must be aware of,” said Ms. Vitorina, lead of the Galoa Village Women’s Group.


“I am grateful to the Fisheries Ministry for allowing us to sit and listen, so we can also be of assistance to the fish wardens and alert them to cases that may require their intervention,” she added. 

Jacquline Nalomaca elaborating to the women from Galoa Village important roles they can play to safeguard their community.

Photo: UNDP

Fisheries Officer, Mere, outling to trainees key segments of the Fisheries Act. The training included individuals from Galoa Village and divers from Beqa Adventure Divers who will work together during the patrols.

Photo: UNDP

The partnership - Galoa Village, Beqa Adventure Divers, Ministry of Fisheries and the new Shark Lab


Beqa Adventure Divers are playing a pivotal role in marine conservation and sustainable development initiatives through its collaboration with the Fiji Shark Lab. Beqa Adventure Divers are actively contributing to the preservation of Fiji's marine ecosystems, particularly focusing on shark conservation efforts and coral reef restoration projects in the Shark Reef Marine Reserve.


Recognizing the need to protect a crucial part of their traditional fishing grounds for biodiversity to thrive, Galoa Village relinquished their fishing rights many years ago in exchange for the Shark Reef Marine Reserve to be legally recognized under the Fisheries Act.


Since then, Beqa Adventures Divers has continued to support the village in their development efforts through a reserve levy that is collected from every dive customer and disbursed to the village on a monthly basis.


The new Fiji Shark Lab was built and furnished using a combination of grants and concessional lending from theInvesting in Coral Reefs and the Blue Economy project and proceeds from Beqa Adventure Diver’s My Fiji Shark programme. 


Natasha D Marosi, Director of Conservation for Beqa Adventures Divers, and founder of the Fiji Shark Lab said: 


“The mission of the Fiji Shark Lab is to advance our scientific knowledge of sharks and rays, support new conservation measures in support of sharks and rays; provide education and outreach and to share results from our field work through public dissemination.”

Natasha D Marosi in the new Fiji Shark Lab with UNDP Pacific Office's Investing in Coral Reef and the Blue Economy Program monitoring officer, Vatimosi Delailovu.

Photo: UNDP

Working in partnership with the Ministry of Fisheries and Galoa Village, Ms Marosi and her team were able to create Fiji’s First National Marine Park – the Shark Reef Marine Reserve in 2004.


“The reserve has become saturated with many different species of fish and the spillover substantially increases fishing yields on the neighbouring unprotected reefs.  As a testament to the benefit of the protections combined with enforcement, we have gone from 150 species of fish to 500, and from seeing six to eight bull sharks on a single dive to 100 in our peak season.

Benefits of the protections combined with enforcement, has seen an exponential growth in the specifies of fish and increase in sighting of bull sharks.

Photo: Fiji Shark Lab

“When divers visit the reserve, they pay a marine park levy which goes to the village, and these divers post and share about their experiences underwater with so many sharks bringing more and more people to dive with us, helping us keep the reserve protected,” she said.

“We are so incredibly grateful for the support of the Joint SDG Fund and the Global Fund for Reefs – donors of the Investing in Coral Reefs and the Blue Economy - as the crucial piece of blended finance facility came at a time when we were our most vulnerable, having suffered from the devastation of the Covid-19.

“This funding enabled us to meet many of our goals, the first being to reinstitute our poaching patrols in the reserve following the reopening of our borders in 2021 and were also able to make much needed payments to the Galoa village making up for the lack of job activity during the pandemic.

“This support allowed us to build our new dive base, run scientific surveys to quantify the damage done during pandemic with all of the poaching, start new projects like the Coral nursery within the reserve, and analyze survey data about the abundance and occurrence of indicator species in the Beqa Lagoon pre-pandemic for use as a baseline to assess biodiversity recovery.

"The funding has also enabled us to build the Fiji Shark Lab on our premises, a field station devoted to research, education and conservation of Fiji's shark and ray populations,” Ms Marosi stated.

Uniting for Sustainable Ocean Prosperity

The journey from reef to community reaffirms the mutual relationship that exists between marine ecosystems and human societies.

By engaging local communities, leveraging blended finance mechanisms, and fostering multi-stakeholder collaborations, not only can we preserve the ecological richness of our oceans but also unlock their economic potential in a sustainable manner.

Anyone, anywhere in the world can support shark research and conservation work by adopting one of the sharks from the Shark Reef MarineReserve. You can do this by visiting

For more information or media inquiries, please contact:

Risiate Biudole, Communications Analyst, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji -