Fiji is one of the world's top dive destinations and the country's economy relies on tourism. Protecting the reefs from overfishing not only preserves the fragile marine ecosystem, but ensures a life-sustaining resource as well as a sustainable tourism draw. In addition to conservation, our program provides local sustainable income, preserves the cultural and social environment, and provides Fiji with a successful sustainable tourism enterprise. The approach allows Fiji's indigenous people to realize the value of preserving their natural resources.
Customary rights to Fiji's reefs are owned by village clans. In cooperation with one village, Aqua-Trek established a shark dive and subsequently had the area declared a marine reserve. Aqua-Trek collects a diver levy that is fully paid to the village. Divers from other attending operators must also pay the levy. In exchange, trained village wardens patrol the area enforcing the "no fishing" rules, thus protecting the attracted marine life. The income is essential for village education programs and necessary community improvements. Furthermore, Aqua-Trek provides villagers with prime job opportunities and employment training. This was Fiji's first program to combine shark conservation and sustainable tourism.
Steady income allows Fijian villages to choose their destiny and preserve their cultural values instead of migrating elsewhere for jobs. Aqua-Trek conducts cultural village visits with small groups of visitors who can experience Fiji's living culture. Working closely with the village provides a symbiotic relationship between the tourism industry provider and the Fijian indigenous people and establishes a strong sense of ownership in the project goals on both sides.