This is the resolution of turtle monitors that gathered at the Dau ni Vonu bi-annual meeting held in Labasa recently.
The meeting agreed that limiting awareness on the importance of sea turtles to conservation sites isn’t pragmatic because the charismatic mega-fauna is migratory by nature.
WWF South Pacific Marine Species Coordinator, Laitia Tamata said for conservation measures to be effective, people that live beyond the conservation areas must also be reached and encouraged to support the growth of the marine turtle population.
“They travel widely so awareness must be carried out on an expansive scale so that everyone is on the same agenda,” he said.
“It’s counterproductive really to just focus on communities near conservation sites for instance in Macuata and Bua because once the turtle moves out of the safe haven of protection in these sites, they are exposed to harvesting outside.”
The Dau ni Vonu program covers Kia, Mali, Nakalou, Raviravi, Kavewa and Druadrua islands in the Macuata province and Yaqaga, Yadua and Naivaka in the Bua province.
Awareness that will include a mix of Dau ni Vonu and Fisheries Department outreach programs, will be extended to Udu and Namuka districts in Macuata, and Cakaudrove province.
Turtle nesting sites have also been identified in these places and need protection.
Divisional Fisheries Officer Northern, Joji Vakawaletabua applauded the Dau ni Vonu program saying it has made major inroads in the protection of turtles and the achievement of goals set out in Fiji National Sea Turtles Recovery Plan.
“I believe the Dau ni Vonu network has achieved a lot in changing the attitudes and perception of communities towards turtle conservation,” he said.
“Communities that have been hunting turtles and destroying their eggs and nesting sites for many generations are becoming turtle friendly.
“Fisheries officers in the north will also be doing a lot of awareness on turtle conservation to complement the work of the Dau ni Vonu.
“It’s not just enough to tell people that it is against the law to kill, sell or eat a turtle of any size without a permit, we need to show them why so that with understanding we can encourage change and grow sea turtle numbers.”