IGS Internships

M.P.A. Project Namasara

by Devin Tu, Mike’s Diver Intern

Introduction

Currently, the western Coral Coast coral reefs have been rapidly deteriorating because of pollution, coral and live rock harvesting, tourism, high-sediment, and other factors. M.P.A (Marine Protect Area) has been set up near Namasara Village. The M.P.A. does not allow any kind of human activity in the area including fishing, coral harvesting, diving, and snorkeling except for doing specific research on the coral reefs. The M.P.A Project Namasara is doing coral reef surveying every 6 month to see if there is a increase of coral growth and fish in the area. The coral survey for M.P.A Project Namasara was done in late September into the October of 2003. Four 100 meter transects were done in the area to observe changes in the coral reef ecosystem.

Currently, the Marine Protect Area has experienced a dramatic increase in hard and soft coral growth, and in turn, has led to a great abundance in fish. In comparing coral survey transects done inside the M.P.A and done outside the M.P.A., we see a major difference in the amount of hard and soft coral and fish. In the MPA, there is obvious sign of an increase in the fish population and rapid growth of hard and soft coral.

Procedure

Transect Coral Reef Surveying

Material

  1. 1x1 meter Transect/Quadrant
  2. 50 meter rope with weights on every 10 meters or 100 meter measuring tape
  3. 5lbs lead weight
  4. pencil/dark
  5. underwater/waterproof paper and clipboard
  6. snorkeling gear- mask, fins, snorkel, wet suit boots
  7. fish identification book
  8. coral reef identification book

Transect Recording

A total of six transects were taken. Four transects were taken inside the Marine Protected Area running parallel East to West and 50 meters apart. Two transect were taken outside the area on the East and West side of the MPA. Transect that were taken were label with MPA and then the number. For example: MPA 1 is transecting set 1 Transects are done every 10 meters for 100 meters. 10 transect records were recorded for every M.P.A. transect set done. Transect records started at 0 meter marker, then at 10 meters, 20 meters, to 90 meter maker. The quadrant back edge ran perpendicular with the marker. For example: at the 20 meter mark using a 1x1 meter quadrant, the quadrant was placed in-between 20 and 21 meters marker. Transects were done at high tide. Most of the time, transect took a long time, with the survey starting at high tide and ending at the beginning of low tide. When doing coral observations using the quadrant, the amount of hard and soft coral were noted in percentages. Live rock or dead coral was not being included. Most of the time at 6 square quadrants was used with each square representing 13%. On MPA 2 (transect set 2) and FA1, a 100 square box with each box representing 1%. The date, time, weather and ocean conditions, tide, indicator species, and survey team names were recorded. A table with a column for each transects set was made that included hard coral percentage and soft coral percentage at each 10 meter marker. Indicator fish species was also recorded at each transect set.

Coordinates were taken at every transect set using a compass. A common landmark onshore like a coconut tree was used first, the compass coordinates were taken in the direction going from shore to sea (North to South). The coordinates at the start of the transect set were also taken, pointing in the direction that ran parallel to shore (East to West). (See figure 1, M.P.A Project Namasara diagram)

Fish Identification

At each transect set; a count of the indicator fish species was done. For M.P.A. project done in September and October of 2003, our indicator fish was Gregory Fish. The method used to count fish species was to use two people to count the fish at the same time to make sure one person was not biased. Fish counting was done while doing the coral survey at the same time.

Results

  1. Graph 0.0 compares MPA1 to MPA4 which the transect 1 close to shore and transect 4 done far from shore.
  2. Tables 1.1 are hard coral numbers table.
  3. Graph 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4 compare hard coral percentage transects.
  4. Table 2.0 shows the data for soft coral for each transect
  5. Graph 2.0 shows compares the soft coral percentage transects
  6. Table 3.0 shows data on Gregory fish population in the MPA
  7. Graph 3.1 and 3.2 show the number of Gregory fish seen on each transect and compares the average number of fish seen inside the MPA to the outside.

Discussion

This research first examined the theory that there would be a greater coral population the farther away from shore and the closer it is to the reef break. It was predicted that there should be softer and hard coral is areas closer to the reef break than near shore. When graphing MPA 1(transect set 1) data versus MPA 4 (transect set 4) data, there was no visible differences in the amount of coral in those two areas (Graph 0.0). MPA 1 was only 50 meters away from shore while MPA 2 was 140 meters away from shore. Both transect sets lines jumped up and down and there was no visible consistent line that showed that one transect had a higher percentage of coral than the other. According to the data and graph, there is no evidence to support the hypothesis that coral population increases closer to the reef. It can be assumed that coral grows in different pattern and patches, thus there is a high probability that random patches of sand and dead coral causes the graph to be thrown off. Refer to graph 0.0.

In comparing transects taken outside of the MPA to transect taken inside the MPA, there is a slight indication that the MPA is helping hard coral grow back. According to the total percentages and comparing transects using a bar graph: the percentage of hard coral inside the MPA is slightly higher than outside of the MPA. Graph 1.4 (Outside vs Inside of MPA Hard Coral) and Graph 1.2 does not show any correlation or differences between the transect. It is speculated that because coral grows randomly and not in a straight line along a transect, that large coral growth in one area along a transect will throw the line and bar graph off. Graph 1.3 (Average % of hard coral) shows that average hard coral percentage in the area runs around 74% and shows on average there is 10% more hard coral on the inside of the MPA.

When examining the total percentage of hard coral at each transect, FA1 and FA2 (outside transect) is on average 11.18% less than the MPA1-4 (inside transects). Refer to Table 1.4 (Hard Coral MPA Number Table) and Graph 1.3. Although the data does not show a major difference between the outside and inside of the MPA, as a scientist swimming out in the ocean and taking measurement, I can easily see that there is much more colorful soft and hard coral growing everywhere inside the MPA. Outside the MPA there is dead coral scattered everywhere and lots of broken coral scatter the sea floor. Please examine Photographs 1.1 and 1.2. To see the visual differences.

When graphing soft coral transect averages, there is substantially more soft coral growth inside the MPA than outside MPA. Outside the MPA, there was no soft coral recorded while inside the MPA, MPA 3 had average of 68% and inside MPA average of 24%. Refer to Table 2.0 (Soft Coral Number Table). Soft coral growth is a strong sign that an area is recovering or growing rapidly. Soft coral growth appear in area when there is an already establish coral reef with lots of diversity and little disturbance while hard coral usually appear first in any area and can live in harsher conditions.

There is strong evidence that show that there is a higher population of Gregory Fish inside the MPA than outside. When comparing the average number of Gregory fish seen inside the MPA to the outside, on average there is more than twice the number of Gregory fish in the MPA than outside. Average of 103 Gregory fish to 43 Gregory fish that means that on average there is almost two times as much fish inside the MPA area than outside. Refer to graph 3.21 and 3.2 An increase of the fish population in area is a strong indication that there good habitat for them to live in, usually coral where they can find food and protection. The most commonly seen Gregory fish in the area is Bluntsnout Gregory, Stegastes lividus, Dusky Gregory, Stegastes ngricans. The Pacific Gregory, Stegastes fasciolatus and Whitebar Gregory, Stegastes albifasiatus is are also seen, but not as much. According to Fiji local villagers the Gregory Fish is called ÒgoruÓ and is commonly fished for when the Gregory fish get really fat and wide. The fish is commonly cooked and then eaten with coconut milk and kasava, a local Fiji crop. It is evident that creating the MPA has increase the number of fish in the area and benefits the local village by providing the village with larger food source.

Problems/Experimental Error

Strong currents sometimes created problems and moved our measuring tape, but the problem was solve by realigning the tape and putting lead weight on top of our measuring tape to prevent it from moving. At one time the current was so strong that we decided not to do transect that day. MPA (Transect Set) 1, 3, and 4 were done using a 6 square quadrant and MPA (Transect Set) 2 and FA1 was done using a 100 square quadrant. MPA 3.5(mismeasured), as seen on Table 1, was done at the wrong place and at the wrong distance from the MPA 2. MPA 3.5 is still usefully information that could later be used for other purpose or research, but was not need for the M.P.A Project Namasara October 2003 survey.

Conclusion

According the data collected in and around the Marine Protect Area, there is evidence to show the Marine Protect Area has led to a great increase in hard and soft coral growth. Due to more coral in the area, there is more protection and food for the fish, causing the Marine Protected Area to have almost twice as many fish than the areas directly outside the MPA. With no human activity in the area, it has directly helped make the marine ecosystem in the MPA flourish. The MPA helps the local village by providing the villagers with a large food source of fish and a pretty marine environment that will attract more tourists and divers to the Coral Coast.