Ingmar Thomassen - Shark Conservation in Fiji
Before I started the Shark Conservation placement in Fiji, I wasn’t sure if working with such dangerous species was a good idea. However, I soon learnt that sharks are not dangerous at all and to see 40 Bull sharks and other beautiful species is an experience of a life time.
Volunteering in Fiji
In February 2014 I left the Netherlands to join the Shark Conservation project in Fiji for five weeks, not knowing this would change my live for good.
I love diving and have been diving for ten years already, but the good thing is that you don’t have to be a professional diver to join this project. Projects Abroad will provide you with the necessary courses to make sure you can dive safely.
After arriving in beautiful Fiji, after a long flight, a Projects Abroad staff member was already waiting for me and went with me on the first bus to Pacific Harbour – home of the Shark Conservation project.
If you arrive you will start diving lessons right away, or if you know how you will be diving the next day on a shark survey.
Out of the three available villas, one became my home for the next 5 weeks and was well equipped with beds, a bathroom, television and internet. The main villa is also used as a common room and this is where I had most of my meals in Fiji.
My Shark Conservation Placement
A normal week starts on a Sunday. After being taught all the necessary diving skills and how to record the research needed, we would participate in a shark survey dive (basically spotting sharks). While spotting sharks I had to write down all the different types of species I saw, the depth of the shark, the sex, how big it was and any noticeable marks on the shark. We did the surveys dives twice a week.
Another task on this placement was to catch little baby sharks. The aim is to catch them, tag them with a little chip (like dogs have) and take DNA samples. This is called tagging day and it’s beautiful because you will leave the villa at 4.30 in the morning to go fishing at the river.
It’s very hard to catch a shark and you will have to keep adjusting your gear and bait, but slowly this part of the project becomes so much fun and I eventually got the hang of it.
During the rest of the week, I worked at the mangrove nursery, where we tried to grow new mangrove trees in recycled bottles and plant them back in the earth. While working with the local community, we built a mangrove nursery in the village and involved as many Fijians as we could.
After my placement, I couldn’t understand why sharks, absolutely amazing creatures, are killed or have their fins removed! This placement was a great learning experience.
My volunteering trip has been a wonderful experience and has really changed my view on marine live and also environmental issues. I realised that five weeks is just not long enough.
I highly recommend this placement, as I had a fantastic time.