Fiji turtles in New Orleans
A cultural icon, Fiji sea turtles have been the target of concerted conservation drives with seafaring communities of Vanua Levu and Lomaiviti provinces.
In presenting to the international meeting hosting scientists and conservationists, Marine Species Programme Manager Merewalesi Laveti said the central role turtles play in cultural expression in certain parts of Fiji have helped conservation drives.
She was accompanied by Marine Species Coordinator Laitia Tamata.
The strong possibility that turtles may be missing forever from chiefly traditional presentations is enough to arrest attention about the ancient creatures declining numbers and spur its protection.
Fiji’s turtle monitoring programme began early 2010 through a partnership between WWF-South Pacific, South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and Vanuatu’s Wan SmolBag Theatre. The programme was funded by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund.
Aimed at helping sea turtle populations along the Great Sea Reef, that runs a 200 kilometer stretch from Udu Point in Vanua Levu to the upper reaches of Yasawa, the programme recruited one time turtle hunters to champion the cause. These monitors were inducted into carrying out nesting and foraging grounds surveys and enforcing the Turtle Moratorium that prohibits turtle and egg harvesting. It helped that these monitors were also fish wardens, empowered under the Fisheries Act Cap 158 to police illegal fishing.
From 10 monitoring sites in 2010 and an initial 23 monitors, the Dau Ni Vonu’s programme success has spread across Fiji. In 2013, there were 30 recorded monitoring sites and 80 monitors along turtle’s migratory route.
Laveti said the symposium was fertile ground for sharing lessons learnt from the global turtle conservation effort.
“Though the turtle work has been truly phenomenal and made progress with communities reporting sighting more turtles than before, the effort must be continued and maintained and to do that financial support especially from international donors is still essential,” Laveti said.
“We also need support in terms of technical expertise, research to better inform policy decisions and campaigns for sea turtle protection and such a symposium provided networks for linking up with these opportunities.”