Katawaqa Nest Spike
From just about two nests observed on the island a decade ago, the number now exceeds 20.
Turtle monitor Emosi Time who is a member of WWF South Pacific’s Dau Ni Vonu(DnV) programmesaid the success is largely due to the protective stance neighboring Kavewa islanders have taken in guarding the island and keeping turtle nests safe from harm.
Time said that although Katawaqa nestles within their iqoliqoli, islanders have sworn to protect it.
The change in the islanders’ attitudes towards the ancient mariner came about after successive awareness campaigns Time carried out with his fellow islanders.
“Since I became a turtle monitor in 2010, I have been carrying out awareness within Nadogo district, around the tanoa, village meetings, church, functions, any time I was given an opportunity I spoke out,” he said.
“It was too important a subject to keep quiet about. If turtles were to survive I needed to be forthright because turtle meat consumption, even raiding turtle nests for their eggs is a practice that has been going on since my forefathers.
“So the change is really something big.”
Time said Katawaqa used to be an adventure island, where children and adults alike came for the vakatakakana(picnic) and playing treasure hunt, with turtle eggs of course as the treasure.
Unlike before when turtle harvesting happened haphazardly, islanders only harvest and consume turtles with permits given by the Fisheries Department for the celebration of important traditional functions.
He said that the situation has changed and the islanders are now avid supporters for growing the marine turtle population.
Katawaqa is off limits and can only be visited with prior permission of a turtle monitor.
Islanders also participate in planting coconut and casuarinatrees on the island to improve vegetation that serves to both protect turtle’s nests and prevent coastal erosion.