Walt Smith International has the unique opportunity to operate and explore a very resource rich country where healthy reef life and diversity is at the heart of our industry.
    Our experiments in Coral Farming have proved to provide a major impact on the hobby world-wide and it continues to excite us all here at ground zero.
    Let’s face it, living in paradise and experimenting with coral diversity and growth is a dream come true to most hobbyist and I have never placed myself above the level of an excited hobbyist willing to share and learn as this “hobby” continues to grow.
    It is my pledge that we will never stop finding new ways to complement our efforts to bring only the best and healthiest marine life to this industry. This includes our never ending quest to implement new ideas in shipping protocol and husbandry that are brought to our attention through various groups and scientific research. Ship coral in Jell-O? Well okay …. We will try it. Not all suggestions work out but we never stop trying to improve.
    Thank you for taking the time to visit our site and I hope you can find it useful and informative in some way.

Live Rock:
Our Live Rock export has been a major source of export revenue for WSI and Fiji. When we expanded to Fiji in 1995 it was the only export we had until we were able to finally build the coral and fish system during the coming year. I was able to concentrate on what exactly the industry needed and developed the first ever live rock holding system that is still in use today. Our “Fiji Premium” has become the benchmark of the industry for high quality, porous live rock from the South Pacific.
    Since then we have expanded our variety to several other types of rock that you can see listed below.

Cultured Live Rock:
In 1997-98 I began experimenting with the idea of manufacturing live rock in our facility in Lautoka, Fiji. My goal was to make a rock that was lightweight and porous enough to be able to compete with” Fiji Premium”. Since all live rock was shipped by air freight the weight was a very important consideration at that time of development.
    In the beginning we started making all of our rock with a hole in the middle. The reason for the hole was simple … we needed it. Through our experiments we discovered that if we just put the rock on the reef it would soon be washed away with the constant movement of the tide and waves. We developed a system of using a wire stretched between two rebar post and the rock was strung on this wire thus the need for holes. We have since found better ways to grow out the rock and holes are no longer necessary.
    We also have discovered that using a colored oxide in the mix helps make the rock look more natural when the coralline starts growing. If we did not use the color the rock would be grey in color (like cement) with coralline here and there and not look natural at all.
    We now have many thousands of tons growing in the sea at various stages of development and it is hard to tell the difference between our cultured and natural live rock. This has taken many years to perfect and we are pleased with the results. Please see the latest photos of our efforts.

Coral Harvest:
    From the beginning we decided that the only way we would harvest live coral would be the most sustainable way possible that would create benefit to the local economy. In addition to this we wanted our coral be known as the best and healthiest coral the market had to offer. This required a lot of scientific research and data along with the most sophisticated and advanced coral holding system available at that time. I decided to experiment with the use of very long (40 ft.) raceways that have become the industry standard today. It was my idea that providing a way to have the water move across the coral in one direction with jets placed all along the way the current would be similar to what they received on the reef flat where most of the harvest took place. This proved much better than just having the water swirl around a series of small tanks. Since we are the first stage of their captive life I felt it was important to gradually get them accustomed to living in a reef tank when they finally reach the hobbyist destination.
    I am pleased to say that our harvest has been studied by many different scientist and NGO (non-government organizations) groups over the years and we have been proven highly sustainable. Our overall harvest area is more than 9,000 sq. miles and it is pretty safe to say that we rarely see the same spot twice and our proven harvest is less than .001% of the given resource. The fact is that coral grows faster than we harvest and we currently plant more than we harvest.

Cultured Coral:
Back in 1997 I started hearing about some hobbyist and professionals experimenting with the idea of cutting small pieces of their favorite coral and gluing them to other pieces of rock. Then Fiji was hit by a major cyclone and one of our favorite collecting reefs was smashed to bits. When we went there a few week after the storm there were little pieces of coral everywhere all over the sandy bottom. I thought this was a terrible tragedy and moved on. Then I went back to that same reef about three weeks later to show a visiting scientist the site and discovered that all those little pieces had started to send off little shoots towards the sun. This incident made me realize that coral farming could become a reality within our industry and hired that same scientist to begin our experiments with different types of hard coral fragments. About the same time I visited my friend, Dave Palmer, in the Solomon Islands and he showed me some racks they were working on in a remote island to the north of Honiara. After returning to Fiji I modified what I saw just a little and coral farming as we practice it today was born.
    As time went on we started to experiment with other types of coral and today our diversity spans over a wide range of species.
    On one reef we have 5 different farms and the potential to grow over 20,000 pieces on that reef alone. It has taken many years to get the distributors interested in this type of product but we persevered with the faith that on day this would be a major part of our market.
    Today the export of cultured coral and rock consist of about 20% of our annual export and we see the number growing. We have discovered new ways of doing things as we continue to experiment and our new manager has brought many fresh ideas with him from Australia where he dabbled in coral farming in that country.

Live Fish collection:
    Since the beginning of my involvement with an export and collection station (we started in Tonga in 1989) it has been my strict policy to train the locals in sustainable handling and collection technique. This of course means we hand collect without the use of any drugs or cyanide that was so popular and common in the Philippines and Indonesia.
    Our location in Fiji is not the best for ornamental reef fish but excellent for coral so over the ears we have made coral and live rock our main focus for export.
    However, things have suddenly changed due to the implementation of our new expansion to another Island group further north. After many years of negotiation and surveys we are now able to collect on the third largest barrier reef in the world with diversity beyond our greatest hope.
    When we finally got the approval, based on many studies to rove our sustainable practice, we started to build the satellite station that would be able to feed our main facility with fish we have never had before and didn’t even know existed in Fiji waters before now.
    For the initial construction and surveys I contacted my good friend Bob Fenner and he was willing to come down and assist in the many things that needed to be done to get operational. Thanks Bob!
    On one of our other new collection areas we were able to discover many rare fish and the most notable discovery was the “Centropyge deborae” named after my wife Deborah. When we first collected this fish we thought it was “C. nox” but later discovered that it was specie of Centropyge and sent it to the University in Taiwan for further study. After about one year in research they contacted me and asked what I would like to name the newly discovered specie and of course I was honored to be able to name it after my wife. It is this very same reef that another good friend of mine, Dr. Bruce Carlson, discovered another specie of Cirrhilabrus and he was able to name “Cirrhilabrus marjori” after his wife Marj. Whether this is a coincidence or luck it was an amazing honor. Look for more to come from our new area that I am told hold many secrets and rare fish.

Walt Smith International Fiji Ltd •  PO BOX 4466  •  Lautoka, Fiji Islands