Engaging the Future
Marine Species Coordinator Laitia Tamata sums up the whole concept of working with Fijian students to boost the recovery of the sea turtle population as one that is holistic and forward thinking.
“Students are the identified future decision makers in the management of natural resources, so the need to engage them from early on by improving their knowledge on turtle ecology, biology and what we can do to help grow their numbers is vital,” he said.
From July 4th to 5th, the team engaged students at Queen Victoria School, Dawasamu and Tai District School and Ratu Kadavulevu schools.
This is the second turtle outreach program for schools, the first in 2009 with Rakiraki division schools Nukuvadra District, Rakiraki Primary and Malake District School.
The Roadshow was first trialed in Macuata in 2007.
Using simple, interactive exercises like ‘Siwa’ and ‘Wind and Wave’, the team shared information on the importance of sustainable fishing and sustainable harvesting of natural resources for the protection of turtles.
With the activity termed ‘Siwa’ which simply means to fish, children are grouped into circles. The centre of the circle represents the fishing ground, which for the purpose of the exercise is littered with sweets to signify fish and turtles.
Though tempted to grab all the lollies at once, the students have to exercise restraint and take only what they need for their families and leave the rest for tomorrow’s fishing effort.
In this way, they learn about the importance of sustainable fishing to ensure there is always fish for tomorrow and support the growth of the sea turtle population.
But before the exercise, the team talked to students about a turtle’s biology and ecology, its nesting habits, the fact that this ancient mariner has roamed the world’s oceans since the time of dinosaurs but now approach extinction because of human greed and activity.
The presentation also identified the five of the seven species of turtles in the world that migrate through Fiji waters.
An added dimension to this year’s road-show was the incorporation of the ecosystem based approach to augment turtle conservation efforts.
In this, the wind and wave activity sees students forming three groups – some the wind, some the waves and others the mangrove trees. Over time with harvesting of mangroves for domestic use, the line of mangroves thin out and offer little coastal protection and the waves and wind batter coastal settlements. The message of this simple exercise is the sustainable harvesting of mangroves, which offers both coastal protection and a habitat for marine creatures like crabs and a nursery for fishes that in turn supply the oceans.
Mangrove trees also serve as a filtration system, trapping sediments washing off the land, keeping reef systems where turtles forage, healthy.
“We’ve also requested the students to go back to their communities and share the message and when it comes to a time when they help make decisions, they are able to use the knowledge that has been shared,” Tamata said.
Tamata added an annual school visit plan will be developed, on the strength of lessons learnt from visits to these schools in the Eastern division this year.