GUE's Project Baseline Initiative Supports Underwater Conservation Documentation Efforts in Fiji

Suva, Fiji (May 13, 2017) –– Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) will be conducting a conservation initiative, called Project Baseline, to document coral reef ecosystems in Fiji in order to better understand the health of Fiji’s deep and shallow reefs and how they may be changing due to climate change and population pressures. 

The project will include a team of GUE technical divers from the United States and New Zealand who will be working with marine biologists from the University of the South Pacific (USP) and the Florida-based Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in a Triton 1,000-meter submersible named Moby. The team will be working from the motor yacht Ad-Vantage and will be supported by her crew along with submersible pilots and engineers. The primary objectives will be to collect photographic and video surveys of coral reef and deeper ecosystems in water depths between 5 and 1,000 meters at several sites near the islands of Kandavu, Beqa, and Viti Levu. The surveys will be used by scientists to establish coral and fish species distributions and densities. The project will start on May 13 and is expected to run through May 27.

“The submersibles will be focusing on mesophotic corals that live below 90 meters and other lifeforms living as deep as 500 meters while the divers will document shallower corals living between 40 meters and the shoreline,” said Dr. Todd Kincaid, Director of GUE’s Project Baseline initiative. “We believe this effort will result in future mission opportunities on a yearly basis enabling sustained collaborations between Project Baseline and the Fijian people.”

Moby, the Ad-Vantage's submersible exploring in Fiji. Image Copyright Yacht Vantage

In addition to supporting USP’s efforts to monitor and document the health of Fiji’s coral reefs, the data collected will be added to GUE’s growing Project Baseline database, aimed at establishing baselines for underwater ecosystems worldwide. All of the imagery and data collected will be accessible to the public on Project Baseline’s online database.

"As a coral reef scientist, being a part of this expedition is a chance of a lifetime," said Dr. Brian Walker a professor at NSU. "Joining Project Baseline and the crew of the Ad-Vantage for diving operations in Fiji affords us the opportunity to visit and collect data on remote coral reefs that have little to no historical information on their biological communities; especially at depths up to 1000 meters. The baseline data collected on this mission could be extremely valuable in understanding the impacts of global changes to coral reef communities as the climate continues to warm."

Project Baseline is a global grassroots conservation effort started by the U.S. based non-profit organization Global Underwater Explorers to aid in the conservation of the world’s aquatic environments. It encourages divers around the world to systematically and continually document underwater conditions at their local dive sites in a reproducible manner, share their observations via the Project Baseline online database, and cultivate collaborations in which their work will benefit ongoing scientific and conservation efforts. Project Baseline expeditions, such as this one in Fiji, foster collaborations between scientific, government, and private entities aimed at understanding and protecting the world’s most special marine environments and endeavor to leave behind ongoing locally run teams who will carry on the Project Baseline mission.

The opportunity to conduct Project Baseline’s expedition to Fiji has been made possible through the generous donations of time aboard the motor yacht Ad-Vantage and the use of its unique and valuable resources.

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Global Underwater Explorers began with a group of divers whose love of underwater exploration grew naturally into a desire to protect those environments. In 1999, they created a unique organization dedicated to high-quality diver education with the goal of supporting aquatic research that advances conservation and safely expands exploration of the underwater world. 

 
Project Baseline has been at the forefront of increasing awareness of Florida reef decline as well as monitoring the health index for nearly 70 marine and freshwater environments world-wide since 2009. Watch as Project Baseline takes CNN underwater for special media coverage on Florida reefs - http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2016/06/26/florida-dying-reefs-sanchez-nd.cnn