WHAT WE DO
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.
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.
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
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
As time went on we started to experiment with other types of
coral and today our diversity spans over a wide range of
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
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.
PRODUCT INFO •
Walt Smith International Fiji Ltd • PO BOX 4466 • Lautoka, Fiji Islands