In honor of World Oceans Day, June 8th, the people of Fiji’s Totoya Island have declared part of their coral reefs sacred.

WCS-Fiji Director Dr. Stacy Jupiter, together with partners from the Pacific Blue Foundation, Wetlands International, and the Waitt Institute, has spent the past week exploring Totoya Island. Accompanied by the island’s high chief, Roko Sau, Jupiter and the research team discovered not only a healthy coral reef teeming with fish—including many species not found in other nearby areas—but a rich culture, tradition, and livelihoods generated from these important resources. Dr. Jupiter has been chronicling her expedition in a National Geographic blog.

Traditionally, when Fijian people noticed declines in their marine resources, chiefs would impose a ban, or “tabu,” on fishing. But Totoya’s previous high chief lifted the ban because of increased commercial value of fish stocks. Because Totoya islanders live along the coast, fishing is a major source of income and food for local people. By declaring their reefs sacred today, the people of Totoya will ensure future generations have access to their ocean’s bounty.

While Totoya’s waters have enough fish to sustain its people and their ecosystem, Dr. Jupiter warns that opening up the reefs would allow foreign trade that could in time deplete its resources.

“The communities should take precaution to avoid the temptation to trade away their resources to outsiders,” she said.

Caleb McClennen, director of WCS’s Marine Program, added that conservation in Fiji helps preserve both its marine resources and the local livelihoods and culture of its people. “WCS supports the preservation of this reef and marine ecosystems around the world on World Oceans Day, and every day,” he said.

World Oceans Day, officially recognized by the United Nations since 2008, is a celebration of ocean conservation. It is an opportunity every year to honor the world’s oceans, celebrate the products it provides and a time to appreciate the ocean’s own intrinsic value.