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Fiji Islands

The Fiji islands are situated in the South Pacific, midway between Melanesia (Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea) and Polynesia (Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands and French Polynesia). The territorial limits enclose an area of 1.3 million sq km (half a million sq mi), but only 1.5% of this is dry land. About 300 islands make up the nation, of which 106 are permanently inhabited; in addition, there are some 522 islets.

The name Fiji is the old Tongan word for the islands, which is in turn derived from the Fijian name Viti.

Viti Levu at 10,400 sq km, and Vanua Levu at 5587 sq km (2160 sq mi) are the biggest islands, and account for some 87 % of the total population.  Many of the islands are relatively untouched and there are many beautiful reefs, lagoons and harbours, as well as natural vegetation.

Viti Levu hosts the capital city of Suva, and is home to nearly three quarters of the population.
The islands are mountainous, with peaks up to 1,300 metres, and covered with tropical forests. Other important towns include Nadi, (the location of the international airport) and Lautoka.

The main towns on Vanua Levu are Labasa and Savusavu. Other islands and island groups include Taveuni and Kadavu (the third and fourth largest islands respectively), the Mamanuca Group (just outside Nadi) and Yasawa Group, which are popular tourist destinations, the Lomaiviti Group, outside of Suva, and the remote Lau Group.

Rotuma, some 500 kilometres north of the archipelago, has a special administrative status in Fiji.

Sea life is abundant and varied, and many species of coral, sponges, tropical reef fish, rays, sharks, dolphins and whales call the Fijian waters home (or call in on their way home).

In Fiji, environmental issues are similar to the other western Pacific Island countries, such as deforestation; soil erosion, and sewage effluent.

For detailed information on the Seagrasses of the Fiji Islands, click here for review of current knowledge.



Cawaci (Ovalau Island)


Monitoring: Ongoing, ad hoc

Principal watchers: Masao Yoshida, Nicolette Yoshida, Shaun Ashley, Charlene Ashley & Seagrass-Watch HQ
Occasional and past watchers: Jo Qalo, Kathey Foi, Evan Naqiolevu & Venoma Yoshida
Location: fringing reef flat in front of St John's College
Site code: CW1, CW2

CW1 position: S17.63303 E178.81461 (heading 50 degrees)

CW2 position: S17.63462 E178.81570 (heading 30 degrees)

Best tides: <0.7m (port Suva)

Issues: Sewage effluent, land runoff & limestone extraction
Comments: St. John's College, is located 5 km north of the historic town of Levuka (Old capital of Fiji), on the island of Ovalau, which lies off the east coast of Viti Levu.

Ovalau is the largest island in Fiji's Lomaiviti archipelago. The island is about 13 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide. It covers a total area of 102.3 square kilometers and has a population of around 9,000. Levuka, Fiji's former capital, is the largest of 24 towns and villages on the island.

St. John's College, is located 5 km north of the historic town of Levuka.  The college was founded in 1894, by Bishop Vidal, to educate the sons of ranking Fijian Chiefs. It sits on the grounds of St. John's Church, a gothic revival building, that is constructed of limestone and coral from the island’s fringing reefs.

The fringing reef has large intertidal meadows of Halodule uninervis, Halodule pinifolia, Syringodium isoetifolium and Halophila ovalis ssp. bullosa. In recent years the reef has experienced blooms of green algae (seaweed) and physical disturbance from extraction activities. The fringing reef is popular at low tide with villagers fishing and gleaning.

CW2 is beside a small creek into which untreated effluent from the boys dormitories is discharged. The site is also adjacent to coral extraction activity by the Public Works Department.

CW1 is 300m north of CW2, directly in front of St. John's Church.

Status (Dec08):

  • No sampling has been conducted since June 2007
  • Sites appear to be showing a fairly typical season pattern of seagrass abundance (higher in late spring-summer than winter). Sites are similar in species composition and abundance.
  • CW2 has generally higher abundance and greater canopy height than CW1
  • CW1 showed a dramatic increase in abundance in mid 2003, which may have been a consequence of extraction activities on the reef flat which possibly released nutrients into the water column.
  • When monitoring began, the abundance of epiphytes was significantly higher at CW2 than CW1, however, now both sites have relatively low epiphyte cover (<10%).





Denarau Island (Western Division, Viti Levu)


Monitoring: ongoing, ad hoc

Principal watchers: Seagrass-Watch HQ
Location: On the intertidal flats of Denarau Island, Nadi, in front of Hilton Resort.
Site code: DN1

DN1 position: S17.76588 E177.37818 (heading 330 degrees)

Best tides: <0.4m  (port Lautoka)

Issues: Sewage effluent, development and land runoff
Comments: A new Seagrass-Watch site was established on the intertidal flats of Denarau Island, Nadi. The island, 684 arces, is located west of Nadi town. Denarau is a reclaimed mangrove island is connected to Viti Levu via a small causeway.

Status (Dec08):

  • sites has only been sampled once
  • insufficient data to determine seagrass condition
  • meadow is comprised of Halodule pinifolia, Halophila ovalis and Syringodium isoetifolium.





Nadroga Navosa (Viti Levu)

Monitoring: ceased, data archived

Principal watchers: Seagrass-Watch HQ
Occasional and past watchers: Alfred Ralifo & Nadroga Navosa Provincial High School students
Location: On intertidal banks of lagoon separating Cuvu village and Shangri-la Fiji Resort
Site code: NN1, NN2

NN1 position: S18.13762 E177.42204 (heading 230 degrees)

NN2 position: S18.13849 E177.42288 (heading 200 degrees)

Best tides: <0.6m (port Suva)
Issues: Sewage effluent & land runoff
Comments: Nadroga Navosa located on the southern coast of the main island of Viti Levu, 11 Km west of the town of Sigatoka.

Nadroga-Navosa is one of Fiji's fourteen Provinces, and one of eight based in Viti Levu, Fiji's largest island. Its 2,385 square kilometers occupy the south-west and central areas of Viti Levu. The population of the Province at the 1996 census, the last to date, was 54,083 - the fifth largest of any Province. The main town in Nadroga-Navosa is Sigatoka, with a population of 7,940 in 1996.  Nadroga-Navosa includes the Districts of Baravi, Malomalo, Nasigatoka, Navosa, Quvu, and Ruwailevu.

Nadroga Navosa Provincial High School was founded in the early 1900s as Cuvu Mission Girls School by the Methodist Church and later became a co-ed school in the 1970s, there are currently approximately 200 students enrolled at the school.

There are very large seagrass meadows in Cuvu Bay, but they are threatened by turbid flood waters from the Voua river. Monitoring sites were situated close to a locally managed marine protected area monitored by WWF and the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific.

At low tide, villagers fish and glean the intertidal flats. Children from the adjacent village often catch fish in the shallow pools, which remained in the seagrass meadow at low tide. Evidence that the meadows were still productive even when in a poor condition.


  • Monitoring has ceased at this location (last monitoring was June 2007).
  • Seagrass abundance decreased significantly in 2004 and 2005, possibly a consequence of high turbidity and sedimentation which appeared to be impacting the meadow from nearby streams.
  • However at the cessation of monitoring in 2007, seagrass abundance had increased and was not significantly different from 2003 abundances.
  • The site was heavy bioturbated by shrimps (callianassids) and acorn worms over the monitoring period.
  • Macro-algal and epiphyte cover remain low (<10%) over the monitoring period.






Natadola (Viti Levu)


Monitoring: ongoing, ad hoc

Principal watchers: Seagrass-Watch HQ
Occasional and past watchers:
Location: On intertidal reef flat in front of Natadola beach
Site code: ND1

ND1 position: S18.10733 E177.32007

Best tides: <0.5m (port Suva)

Issues: sewage effluent, development and land runoff
Comments: Natadola Beach (about 40 minutes from Nadi) is one of Fiji’s best, for the sand, swimming, snorkelling and the sunsets

Status (Dec08):

  • no sampling has been conducted since June 2007
  • insufficient data to determine seagrass condition
  • meadow is comprised of Halodule uninervis, Halodule pinifolia and Halophila ovalis ssp bullosa.
  • epiphytic algae is very low and indicator of relatively low levels of elevated nutrients





Suva (Viti Levu)

Monitoring: ongoing, ad hoc

Principal watchers: Seagrass-Watch HQ, International School Suva
Occasional and past watchers:
Location: on intertidal banks in front of Nasese Education Precinct and easily accessed by foot.
Site code: SV1, SV2

SV1 position: S18.16257 E178.44326 (heading 90 degrees)

SV2 position: S18.16134 E178.44428 (heading 90 degrees)

Best tides: <0.6m (port Suva)

Issues: sewage effluent, Industry pollution & land runoff
Comments: Suva is located on the south east coat of the main island of Viti Levu and has a population of approx 167,975 (1996 census). Suva is the capital of Fiji. It became the capital in 1877 when the geography of the former capital at Levuka on the island of Ovalau proved too restrictive.

The City is also the commercial and political centre of Fiji, is the largest city in the South Pacific outside of Australia and New Zealand and is Fiji's main port city. Although Suva is on a peninsula, and almost surrounded by sea, the nearest beach is 40 kilometers away at Pacific Harbour, and the nearby coast is lined by mangroves.  A significant part of the city centre, is built on reclaimed mangrove swamp.

Rapid population growth and urbanisation of the city and corridors has put increasing environmental pressure on the region. Environmental degradation is largely due to domestic waste and sewage disposal dumped in mangrove habitat and water ways. Industry in the area discharge their waste directly into rivers and coastal waters, which significantly reduces water quality in the near-shore waters around Suva. Often little or no regard is paid to the importance of mangroves and seagrasses in the marine food chain or the problem of leaching of pollutants during periods of high rainfall.

High concentrations of nutrients (sewage) also cause algal blooms that are destructive to the ecology of the harbour waters. A recent study undertaken by the University of the South Pacific indicated that the general water quality of Suva harbour gave cause for concern. Water pollution around Suva is dire and very worrying in terms of health for the local population and the environment. Pollution is obviously effecting the biology in the area, as fish caught off Suva harbour sometimes have an oily, kerosene flavour, while marine life in the harbour has been degraded. Shellfish feed by filtering the water they live in. Those found in coastal areas of Suva absorb sewerage waste and the population of Suva has been advised not to eat the local shellfish because of the danger of hepatitis. Despite that problem, Suva harbour and Laucala Bay remain a major source of food for low-income residents (source &

Status (Dec08):

  • no sampling was conducted in 2008
  • sites were established in May 2006
  • insufficient data to determine seagrass condition
  • meadow is comprised of Halodule uninervis, Halodule pinifolia and Halophila ovalis ssp bullosa.
  • Of concern, was the high amounts of epiphytic algae covering the leaves and macroalgae, which formed a thick mat over the seagrass. 
  • Also of note were significant clumps of drift algae washed up along the foreshore.





Tagaqe (Viti Levu)

Monitoring: ongoing, ad hoc

Principal watchers: Seagrass-Watch HQ
Occasional and past watchers:
Location: On intertidal fringing reef in front of Hideaway Resort
Site code: TQ1

TQ1 position: S18.19715 E177.64968 (heading 172 degrees)

Best tides: <0.6m (port Suva)

Issues: Sewage effluent & land runoff
Comments: Tagaqe is located, on the Coral Coast, approximately 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of the capital of Suva. The Coral Coast stretches along an 80 km length of coast on the southern side of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu. A popular tourist destination, the Coral Coast is also home to some of Fiji's more established resorts. The Coral Coast embraces Natadola Beach in the west, to Pacific Harbour further to the east.

In the heart of the Coral Coast is Tagaqe village and the Hideaway Resort, who are working together to preserve and regenerate the local coal reefs. Tagaqe village has designated part of the reef in front of Hideaway Resort as “tabu” protected. This is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) to provide a safe environment for the coral and marine life to grow and flourish.

To help assess the condition of the reef ecosystem, Seagrass-Watch was granted permission to map the extent of seagrass resources within and adjacent to the tabu area in front of Hideaway Resort, and to establish a monitoring site.

In early May 2006, Seagrass-Watch HQ scientists Len McKenzie and Rudi Yoshida mapped 1.6 hectares of predominately Halodule pinifolia meadows and established a monitoring site. Just over 20% of the meadows were within the designated tabu area.

Status (Dec08):

  • no sampling has been conducted since June 2007
  • insufficient data to determine seagrass condition
  • Four seagrass species are found in the Seagrass-Watch monitoring site.
  • The most noticeable feature of the seagrass condition within the site was the high amount of epiphyte cover on the leaves. High epiphyte can be a natural occurrence, however at some locations it can be an indicator of elevated water column nutrients.







Monitoring: ongoing, annual

Principal watchers: LäjeRotuma
Occasional and past watchers: Rotuma School EcoCamp
Location: reef flat Maka Bay (Motusa)
Site code: RT1

RT1 position:

Best tides:

Issues: sewage effluent & land runoff
Comments: Rotuma, a volcanic island of approximately 43 sq. km, is located 465 km north of Fiji.   Although the island has been politically part of Fiji since 1881, Rotuman culture more closely resembles that of the Polynesian islands to the east, most noticeably Tonga, Samoa, Futuna and Uvea. Because of their Polynesian appearance and distinctive language, Rotumans now constitute a recognizable minority group within Fiji.  The great majority of Rotumans (10,000) now live elsewhere in Fiji, with a little under 3000 remaining on Rotuma.

Rotuma is a Fijian Dependency, consisting of the island of Rotuma and the nearby islets of Hatana, Hofliua, Solkope, Solnohu and Uea. These volcanic islands are located at 12°35'S 177°10'E, approximately 465 kilometers north of Fiji. Rotuma Island itself is 13 kilometers long and 4 kilometers wide, with a land area of approximately 43 square kilometers.

The LäjeRotuma Initiative established in late 2001, consists of young Rotumans residing in Fiji who wanted to give something back to their community and Rotuma. The name LäjeRotuma literally translates to “coral reefs Rotuma”. Due to the island's isolation and small size, its marine and terrestrial resources are susceptible to over exploitation. The main aim of LäjeRotuma Initiative is to create awareness amongst Rotumans on the island about their natural surroundings, heritage, limited resources and how to protect and use these resources sustainably.

Status (Dec08):

  • Seagrass abundance appeared to decline in 2007 but increased back to 2005 and 2006 levels in 2008
  • Syringodium isoetifolium is the only species of seagrass found in Rotuma.
  • Seagrass meadow appears to be generally stable, an indication that the seagrass meadow is relatively healthy.
  • There has also been a reduction in the percentage epiphytic algae and macroalgae in the seagrass meadow.
  • The mean number of animals found on the seagrass meadow increased slightly from 2004 to 2005 and directly correlates to the increase in the seagrass cover.
  • This seagrass meadow provides a lot of shellfish, fish and seaweed to the villages close by.





Kabara Island (Lau Group)

Principal watchers: Monifa Fiu, WWF Fiji Country Programme
Occasional and past watchers:
Site code:

The Lau or Eastern Archipelago of the Fiji Islands consists of a chain of about 100 small islands and reefs, 30 of which are inhabited, extending north and south along the eastern margin of the Fiji group. Geographically, the Lau Islands are intermediate between Melanesian Fiji and Polynesian Tonga, and thus lie at the meeting point of two culture areas.

Central Lau includes the Islands of Lakemba, Naian, and Thithia.  Lakemba is the principal island of the Lau group, with seven villages and a population of around 1,000 in about 1920. The high chief of the chiefdom of Lakemba and his family reside here in the main village of Tumbou.

Southern Lau is composed of an isolated group of six inhabited islands and their uninhabited satellites.  The inhabited islands are Fulanga, Kabara, Komo, Mothe, Namuka, and Ongea.

The reefs found in this isolated group consist of some of the most pristine hard coral gardens in the world.  Soft corals and sea whips occur in some of the deeper sites, but are less common than elsewhere in Fiji.

Kabara island is located in the southern part of the Lau archipelago, and has a land area of 31 square kilometers.  The islanders are noted for their craftsmanship in the area of wood carving. Vesi wood, which grows natively on Kabara, is the traditional material, but deforestation has stripped the island, leaving only 8% of the island covered with Vesi trees.





Copyright © 2006-2019 Seagrass-Watch HQ. 228pp. Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the program's supporters.
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