Jone Waitaiti’s passion for the ocean inspired him to start coral farming and he saw it as his own way of giving something back to nature.
The 44-year-old says the ocean has basically shaped his life, having been involved in scuba diving for more than 20 years.
During these years he realised the reefs were dying from coral bleaching and damaged by people so he initiated a drive to do something to protect and value the Ocean’s wildlife.
Mr Waitaiti is originally from Vina’a, Taveuni, and now resides at Viani Bay, Ucunivatu, Vanua Levu.
He was in Germany for seven years, where he completed diving course.
“Being an islander like many who are multi-skilled, I did my course in the German language and later I was a diving instructor in Germany,” Mr Waitaiti said.
He is the Dive Academy Fiji director and dive instructor where he teaches diving in three languages — English, Fijian and in German.
“I was always diving and loved the sea so I started doing coral farming,” he said.
“Due to over fishing and trash by the people, I wanted to help the reef by giving something back.”
Mr Waitaiti said if there was no coral on the reefs there would not be any fish, so by farming more coral there will be more fish.
“Helping the reef is like sustainable living for us,” he said.
“Through the protection it’s a significant help to the ocean and planting coral helps it even better.
“In the past two years I have seen huge changes on the reefs, the corals are growing healthier and fish numbers are increasing,” Mr Waitaiti added.
With help from the community they are able to protect 1400 metres of reef from fishing.
“I have a dream to restock and bring back coral and fish population to Viani Bay one day,” he said.
“Corals are dying because the ocean is acidifying and getting warmer and will end up in coral bleaching.”
He said materials needed for coral farming were ropes, buoys, fuel, cement brushes, buckets and snorkeling equipment’s.
“The stock has multiplied and will attract bigger fish. One day the whole Viani Bay will be restocked with fish and corals,” he said.
Mr Waitaiti’s plea: “Landowners and qoliqoli owners should take care of their heritage. Not only say it belongs to them, they should take care of it.”
His work, he says, is best summed up by author Richard Branson in quoting what John F Kennedy said: “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” Edited by Percy Kean