The Fiji International Year of the Reef (IYOR) was launched by Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama today.

The launch was held at at Nukubati Island Resort off the coast of Macuata. Mr. Bainimarama took the opportunity to announce Government’s approval for the nomination of section of the Great Sea Reef as a Ramsar site under the Convention on Wetlands, and congratulated the Tui Macuata, the people of Macuata and WWF for their leadership on the nomination proposal to the Fiji government.

Launching the 2018 IYOR on Nukubati is significant as the resort is located in the Great Sea Reef region.

The Great Sea Reef also known as Cakau Levu is the third largest barrier reef system in the southern hemisphere at 260 kilometres.

He called on world leaders to summon the collective will to reverse the death of coral reefs, “Imagine ecosystems built up over millions of years gone within a space of a generation. It cannot happen. It must not happen.”

Fiji joins other nations and organisations around the world in IYOR activities to preserve coral reefs and related ecosystems around the world.

The 2018 International Year of the Reef was declared by International Coral Reef Initiative, the first being in 1997 after the worst coral bleaching recorded up to that date.

Since then the third global mass bleaching due to ocean warming occurred in 2016 to 2017 and spanned from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean and to Africa.

WWF Pacific and partners have been working with communities in the Great Sea Reef region to secure alternative source of food and income, provide technical assistance and policy change.

WWF Pacific Representative- Kesaia Tabunakawai welcomed the announcement on Ramsar by Mr. Bainimarama and said it was in line with WWF’s global strategy on reef conservation.

Ms. Tabunakawai said any positive policy and or practice such as the Ramsar site is important, “Unsustainable land use practice, deforestation, mining and pollution threaten the Great Sea Reef region including mangroves, fisheries and the reef itself.”

Climate Change, oceans and reefs are interlinked. Increased Flooding and high intensity cyclones have a major impact on the Great Sea Reef.

Four of Fiji’s major rivers flow into the Great Sea Reef region, such as increased rainfall variability and greater frequency of cyclones and flooding.

This in turn affects fish catch and livelihoods of the the communities in the Great Seaq Reef region.

The Great Sea Reef spans four provinces and ten fishing grounds, the GSR provides protein in their diets.

The Great Sea Reef has many Fijian names- Cakau Levu (big reef), Bai ni kei Viti (wall of Fiji and Bai ni Vualiku (wall of the north).

The Great Sea Reef like other reefs dissipates 97% of wave energy crashing in from the ocean, without it many islands and the coasts of Vanua Levu and Viti Levu would be almost uninhabitable.