Fiji: Minimal damage to reef from storm but extensive coral bleaching

Repeka Nasiko Fiji Times 26 Sep 16;

A POST-Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston reef assessment in the Mamanuca region has shown there was minimal damage caused by the Category 5 storm.

However, the survey carried out by the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) discovered a high amount of coral bleaching in marine systems under the care of the organisation.

MES project officer Marica Vakacola said the MES team carried out the in-house study for interested member resorts including those used for snorkelling by guests.

"The task objective is to assess the impacts of (Severe) Tropical Cyclone Winston together with the mass bleaching activity that has been reported to be occurring on resorts in-house reefs in the Mamanuca region," she said.

"The assessment team consisted of two MES staff that have carried out the assessment and saw minimal damage was done by TC Winston but 50 to 80 per cent of all surveyed reef have been affected by the bleaching activity.

"The method that was used in assessing the reef was done by using a one metre by one metre quadrant and randomly placed along the surveyed reef where the bleached corals present in the quadrant was tallied and recorded.

"It was evident that the Acropora species was greatly affected by the two natural threats — Tropical Cyclone Winston and global climate change which occurred side by side resulting in the degradation of the reef's health status in the region."

She said during the assessment, it was obvious that the number of common reef fish together with ornamental fish species were low. She added MES would like to thank its member resorts for their continuous support in the marine conservation work they had carried out in the Mamanuca region.