Butterflyfish are easily observed in all regions of Fiji, and counting them tells us a lot about coral health and water quality. Most Butterflyfish feed on and live among hard corals, so they depend on reefs that are in good condition. Coral animals need good water quality and steady temperatures between 68° and 86°F (20° and 30°C) to thrive. High numbers of Butterflyfish reflect good coral health, which in turn reflects good water quality. On healthy, live reefs, we would expect to see many different kinds of Butterflyfish, but if reefs are unhealthy, we may see a drop in numbers and variety.
Based on scientific survey techniques, Butterflyfish will be identified and counted over all the regions of Fiji. The count itself will take 30 minutes of a normal scuba dive, snorkel, or glass-bottom boat trip. During this time, counters will carry a Great Fiji Butterflyfish Count waterproof slate (shown at right) to help them identify the Butterflyfish they see. Scientists will carry out similar timed counts over measured areas and the results will be sent to Fiji Reef Check and Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network coordinators for analysis. Reports and a distribution map of Butterflyfish Abundance and Diversity will be posted on the Great Fiji Butterflyfish Count Web site.
Results and Data
The collected data will allow the coordinators to map Butterflyfish distribution and abundance in Fiji, as well as infer patterns of reef health. The results will be made available to all interested parties, including:
- Environmental managers, to develop better management plans for the reef system.
- The scientific community, to assist them in the implementation of conservation strategies and management measures to improve the health of Fiji’s reefs.
- The tourism industry, including resorts and dive operators, to raise awareness and assist them in designing better approaches toward caring for the marine environment.
- The general public, through the Great Fiji Butterflyfish Count Web site, local newspapers, in-flight magazines, local magazines, posters, and so on.
- A major country report will be compiled and released, to increase general awareness and to illustrate the positive outcome on protecting Fiji’s reef system for generations to come.
This unique event engages the public in a celebration of Fiji’s amazing coral reef biodiversity, and allows everyone to participate directly in the protection of our world’s delicate coral reef systems.
Photo credit (top): Andaman Butterflyfish (Chaetodon andamanensis); photo credit (bottom): Foureye Butterflyfish (Chaetodon capistratus) by Paddy Ryan