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The attractions of marine studies

Alumeci Nakeke Of Seaweb
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Students studying marine science should not only set their sights on getting a job but rather to know the range of possibilities available, says a local academic. Many graduates are now looking for work but they need to change their mind—set as shortage of employment will always arise while there are attractive opportunities in many countries to set up operations and offer employment to others. .

"We want them to consider being employers and not be limited to be just employees. Many more of our graduates need to be job creators instead of job takers so they need to have knowledge to place themselves in such a place," said University of the South Pacific School of Marine Studies lecturer Dr Joeli Veitayaki.

"Aqua culture is one of the opportunities available but unless the students fully know the life cycles of what they intend to farm, they will not be able to succeed with aquaculture. We cannot culture anything unless we know how to raise them in a controlled environment, thus the need for education."

He said an example was the crabs that are being researched at the moment at the university's School of Marine Studies.

They cannot be farmed unless their life cycle is fully known because the young crabs would travel from the mangroves to outside the reefs and then try to get back to the mangroves—but only a few will make it. Unless the farmers conduct careful study, they will not know.

"There is a need for more students to take up marine studies because we are not doing enough for our environment especially the management of the relationship between terrestrial and marine habitats.

For example, coral reefs are affected by sediments from the rivers, even before the added effects of climate change and the temperature and salinity changes in our waters affect the individual species in the area," said Dr Veitayaki.

USP offers multi disciplinary programmes in Marine Science and Marine Affairs (Social Science). Marine science includes the study of corals, fish and ocean while social science or marine affairs cover the economics, law, policy and management which includes community-based initiatives.

Marine Studies is also on a prime location because of its accessibility to the reefs and nearby marine protected areas (MPAs) for students to learn from.

The attractions of Marine Studies was fully supported by two exchange students, Laura Freeman, 22, from Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand and Ashley McGuigan, 20 from the North Carolina State University.

Freeman in her fourth year at university back home is taking a double major in tourism and management but this year enrolled at USP for a year to take development studies which includes tourism, geography and marine studies.

"I like it here at USP because I have learned a lot of new ideas here. When I first came, I did not know anything but all that has changed …..From what I have learned we need to incorporate development studies with marine because I learned a lot which I would not have learned back home or anywhere else in the world," she said with a serious look on her face.

McGuigan aired the same sentiments, "I was really interested in ethno-biology (how plant and animals are used by different people with their different cultures) especially what we can use from our backyard and how the people relate to the environment.

"People here know the roots of everything and as for us back home we don't know where our food, medicine and other things come from. I am a marine science student and really like the hands—on stuff here at USP especially the field trip where I find out what people are doing - how they fish out their MPA and what is happening to their resources."

She also proudly admits that she is now a certified diver and heard about USP through someone who was a former student here and was in the same dormitory with her in the States.

On the girls' experience here in the country, Dr Veitayaki explained the stark contradictions. Fijians may regard our visitors from abroad as backward in living the lives we live. However, that is exactly the same way they see us if we go over to live the lives they live at home.

Exchange students such as Ms Freeman and Ms McGuigan can help bring our two worlds together.

Furthermore, Dr Veitayaki said Fiji had vast oceans and scattered small islands with people in urban and rural areas looking for employment. And we have to understand that there is more sea area than the land and with enhanced knowledge our graduates can utilise their skills to use our resources.

"We have a good and vibrant tourism attractions but we also need to attract scientists to places like Makogai and other outer islands which would be visited no matter how far they are if the attractions are convincing. A great example is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia where people pay to get there because of what it offers," he said.

Dr Veitayaki said there was good potential for business opportunities at sea.

He mentioned seaweed farming that is now the source of income in some rural communities. The demand for the commodity continues to increase. Fijians have to find ways of meeting these demands. Moreover, capacity building in institutions such as USP is needed to support new industries in the areas of energy, sailing, whale and shark sanctuaries, and aquariums which would be big attractions

"We should also support sustainable technologies and a good example is enhancement, ranching or restocking that involves the culturing of marine resources like fish so that they can be freed into the wild to enable fishermen to get enough supply for the country's increasing population," .

We can also impose catch limits and high standards to maintain high price for our reef fishes, said Dr Veitayaki

He emphasised that in order to fulfill these visions, students should be encouraged to study and create jobs and not look for jobs.

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