Fifteen miles south of Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second biggest island, the Namena Barrier reef extends into the Koro Sea. At the centre of the lagoon lies the dragon-shaped island, Namena. Surrounding this lush volcanic island is a vast expanse of coral reef known as the Namena Barrier Reef, which includes over 30 miles of pristine reef track.
About four nautical miles southeast of Namena Island the barrier reef comes to a southern point. From this southern point towards the northeast and northwest, run two strips of barrier reef about five nautical miles long on each side. On the seaward side, the reef drops off to a depth of between 600 and 1000 metres.
The barrier reef is broken on each side by the North Save-A-Tack Passage (east side) and the South Save-A-Tack Passage (west side). From both passages northward the barrier reef continues as a more discontinuous reef front with many bommies and pinnacles running in a northwesterly direction.
Namena earns its uniqueness from its environmental status. In 2003, the lagoon surrounding Namena Island and the barrier reef were declared a marine reserve, known as the Namena Marine Park. Fishing restrictions have allowed marine life to flourish around the remote island. In addition to the marine reserve, a sanctuary on the island of Namena Island supports red-footed boobies, nesting sea birds. Green and hawksbill sea turtles lay their eggs on the beaches surrounding the island during the months of January, February, and March.
The barrier reef has an interesting topography including reef walls, numerous passes and channels, and coral pinnacles. The variety of seascapes supports a diverse assemblage of fish and corals.
Our study site on the outside of the eastern barrier reef consists of drop-offs down to almost a thousand meters in places. Vitareef data were collected on the wall and on reef crest. Transects were laid to cover both the crest and the upper wall. In both transects the crests were about seven to eight meters deep.
The area on the lagoon side of the barrier reef surrounding our study sites consists of a shallow slope covered in sand and rubbe. There are only a few small areas of hard bottom, and the most common coral genus growing in these patches is Acropora. These patches are found in about three to four meters of water.