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Turtles Released From Treasure Island

Turtles Released From Treasure Island
Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management, and Meteorological Services Inia Seruiratu releases a turtle during the World Turtle Day 2018 celebration at Treasure Island on May 23, 2018. Photo: Charles Chambers
May 24
11:16 2018

Treasure Island Resort is a re­nowned tourist destination and known throughout the world for its protection of endan­gered species.

This also includes the crested igua­na and some of Fiji’s rare bird spe­cies.

Five Hawksbill Turtles were yes­terday given the chance to explore the vast Pacific Ocean after being re­leased at Treasure Island.

Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, National Disaster Management and Mete­orological Services and High-Level Champion for Global Climate Action, Inia Seruiratu was part of the group of five who set the turtles off into the ocean as part of World Turtle Day.

Also part of yesterday’s programme were Kula Bird Park, World Wild­life Fund (WWF), National Trust of Fiji, Tony Ackland of Captain Cook Cruises, Robin Yarrow, former Per­manent Secretary for Agriculture and now a representative of Nature Fiji, a group of students from uni­versities in Canada and resort guests.

 

The turtles were part of the resort’s continuous programme on the pro­tection of the turtles which have been listed as an endangered species.

However, despite a ban on the har­vesting of turtles in Fiji, Mr Seruira­tu said people continue to kill them for their meat and the sale of the tur­tle back.

Turtle Moratorium

The Fiji ‘Turtle Moratorium’ on molesting, taking or killing of turtles came into effect in March 2004 and expires on December 31, 2008.

Apart from the Hawkesbill Turtle, Mr Seruiratu said three other turtle species that make their homes here in Fiji and are also endangered were the Pacific Leatherback (or Vonu Dakulaca); the Loggerhead Turtle and the Green turtle (or the Vonu Dina).

“Their state of endangerment re­flects the serious decline in their population,” Mr Seruiratu said.

“Treasure Island Resort and Hawks­bill Turtles have become inseparable, their relationship spanning 40 years.

“The turtles are synonymous with Fijian culture and history and are a vital part of our coral reefs ecosys­tems.”

The resort has been an advocate for the protection of Hawksbill Turtles and the island has become a sanctu­ary for these majestically sea crea­tures.

A full-time environmental officer, Waseroma Kalouniviti and dedicated environment team led by the resort’s general manager Craig Powell and executive assistant manager Sophie Clay have kept a close eye on the Hawksbill Turtle Conservation Pro­gramme, among other projects.

Hundreds of Turtles released

The resort has released hundreds of turtles back into the wild each year and has incorporated their guests into the programme.

Since the year 2000, World Turtle Day has been celebrated annually on the 23rd of May.

The day serves to increase aware­ness on the importance of protecting our turtles and tortoises, and the pro­tection of their threatened habitats.

“This day is also an opportunity to celebrate the many efforts and achievements of the various or­ganisations, communities and indi­viduals who have worked tirelessly through the years to keep our turtles healthy and safe.”

He said threats faced by the sur­vival of turtles include increased foreshore development, industriali­sation, pollution, and waste disposal that destroy breeding grounds and contaminated marine habitats.

“Turtle populations are also threat­ened by unsustainable and illegal fishing practices and by the increase in maritime traffic,” he added.

“It is crucial that these threats are addressed through – among other measures, stronger regulations, ef­fective policies, and wide education and awareness.

“In this regard, you would be aware of the moratorium on the harvesting of turtles put in place by Govern­ment from 2009 – 2018.

“It is encouraging to note that moni­toring during this period reveals an increase in both feeding and nesting grounds for turtles, giving fresh hope for the survival of our turtle popula­tions.”

Mr Seruiratu said in addition, nation-wide awareness and educa­tion on the moratorium has seen in­creased engagement and dedication of local communities in safeguard­ing the survival of turtles.

“However some people continue to ignore the moratorium and he would certainly be adding his weight to the continuous ban after the expiry at the end of the year but that would depend on the Minister for Fisheries, Semi Koroilavesau.

WWF have indicated they would lobby ad push for the moratorium to be renewed or extended and Mr Se­ruiratu has requested that they col­late data to back their proposal.

Feedback: charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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