Way back in 1972 before there was coral and live rock in aquariums I was an avid saltwater hobbyist that made regular visits to my local pet stores in Chicago. While studying Architecture at the University of Illinois I became hopelessly addicted to finding out where every pet shop in Chicago was that carried salt water fish to feed the seven tanks I had in my two bedroom apartment.
    It wasn’t long after that I decided to find work as an Architect on the west coast in California to be near the ocean that has become my passion and be near the tide pools and ocean life. After searching high and wide during a recession I soon realized that a job was not available but I was not willing to leave the coast where I had easy access to the sea. I began calling my friends in the pet stores in Chicago to sell them what I was able to find in the tide pools and my career in this wonderful and fascinating industry began. I soon got a job at a LA wholesaler to “learn the ropes” and after about a year started the first service of its kind by hand picking fish orders from the few LA wholesalers that existed at that time to service the fish stores around the country that were seeking better quality and more variety.
    After about 16 years as the only “hand picked” service (at that time) in LA I got an opportunity to move to Tonga in 1989 to run an export station that was in need of supervision. Soon after I arrived in Tonga with my wife Deborah and two small children the owners of the station decided to quit but I refused to leave and bought the license to start on my own. This was the time that Reef Tanks were building in popularity and the timing was right since I was more interested in the coral as a new horizon for me.
    After almost 7 successful years in Tonga the Fiji Government invited me to expand my operation to Fiji and help set the standards of an emerging industry through our sustainable and responsible harvest policies. I was also attracted to the potential of more flights and larger reefs to service my customers and better schools and lifestyle for my family. The frequent flights with larger planes made it possible to expand the Live Rock export and “Fiji Premium” was born.
    In 1998 I ran my first experiments in coral farming in Fiji and was highly enthused with the success of this pioneering effort. In about the same year I also began to experiment with artificial live rock. Today I have over 90,000 pieces of coral that we planted on racks in the sea and more than 100 tons of man-made live rock at all times in the on various farm sites throughout Fiji. I have been credited as a pioneer in this field and am honored to be a part of an industry that I love with a passion.
    In all this time Deborah has been by my side as my partner and is an integral part of the business and my children have grown and are now on their own with Fiji as their homeland. We have received the “International Ecotourism Award” in 2007 for our “Coral Walk” at the Hideaway resort in Fiji and are proud to say that we have taught thousands of visitors the responsible and sustainable way that a resource can be beneficial to the local economy.

Walt Smith

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