Coral Reef Preservation

Please do not touch or walk on living coral.

Not everyone realises that coral reefs are made up of tiny animals less than one centimetre tall. The “stone” that you see is the outer skeleton of these tiny animals, which are retracted into the reef during the day. The outer, coloured layer of coral is the living area. Any broken grey area is no longer alive.Coral grows slowly, (on average, one to five centimetres per year); one large branch of coral may have taken fifty years to grow, and of course will take another fifty years to be replaced if it is destroyed.

Please take care not to walk on, or break off, living coral. The best way to do this is to snorkel or float carefully over reef areas. If you must put your feet down, please look out carefully first, and make sure you only step on grey or sandy areas. Please do not reach out and grasp living coral.

Please do not take souvenirs from the water.

Fijian villages are dependent upon the reef for food, and Fijian law states that all reef products belong to the villagers in the region. Anything found above the waterline on the dry beach is all right to pick up, but please have a good look inside any shells and make sure that you are not taking away any tiny hermit crabs living inside them.

Certain shells are very important to the balance of marine life, and should not be bought from shell markets, as this encourages their removal. Usually these species are protected, and it is forbidden to import them into many countries.

Species that cannot be taken back into New Zealand, Australia, the USA, and most of Europe, are the Giant Clam (the white “soap dish shells”) and the Triton’s Trumpet (the large red/brown pointed snail shell often used as a traditional Fijian trumpet). It is a criminal offence to take anything made of Turtle Shell into most countries, and hunting turtles is illegal in Fiji.

If you are really concerned about protecting the reef systems, please do not buy any shell or coral products from souvenir stalls.

Helen Sykes

marine ecology
Fiji’s leading company for Coastal & Marine Ecology Assessments