NATION

10-Year Harvest, Sale Ban Of Turtles Ends

The 10-year ban for harvesting and sale of turtles in Fiji came to an end in December last year. Fisheries director Aisake Batibasaga said the ban helped bring in a
26 Jan 2019 10:00
10-Year Harvest, Sale Ban Of Turtles Ends
A green sea turtle at the University of the South Pacific’s Marine Campus in Laucala Bay, Suva. Photo: Sheenam Chandra

The 10-year ban for harvesting and sale of turtles in Fiji came to an end in December last year.

Fisheries director Aisake Batibasaga said the ban helped bring in a new and heightened awareness of the plight of sea turtles in Fiji, a highly endangered species often known as the ancient navigators of the ocean.

“The endpoint is that we have noted a rise or tangible increase in the number of nesters coming back to lay eggs on the beaches,” Mr Batibasaga said.

“Education and Awareness programs helped the communities, and all sectors of society, including school children, and different stakeholders of Fiji.”

Sea turtles are very important across our coral reefs and open oceanic regions, as they help on grace on seagrass beds, and micro-algal ridges across the sea, and thus help provide nutrients on the oceanic water column.

Mr Batibasaga said at the end of the moratorium they could successfully say the numbers of sea turtles and nesters have clearly increased compared to the earlier two decades, however, it is also important to note that the increased numbers were also a result of conservation measures by other countries in the region.

These countries would include Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Australia, PNG, and even Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan.

 

Reason for the ban

Mr Batibasaga explained the moratorium followed an earlier ban that was for five years, and it was to allow the sea turtles to reproduce.  As most of the species of sea turtles start breeding after 27-30 years (with the exception of the Leatherback sea turtle, which can reach maturity at an earlier age of only 15 years).

In this period, it allowed the Ministry of Fisheries and its stakeholders to carry out more field research and collect relevant data. On each sea turtle population (as 5 species of sea turtles are found in Fiji).

 

Charged for sale and harvesting

of sea turtles

The Director has confirmed that there had been cases reported, for sale and harvesting of sea turtles that are still ongoing.

“A few have been taken to Court and have been fined from the last 5-7 years,” Mr Batibasaga said.

“We are currently working to undertake more stringent enforcement patrols, and those found breaking the current laws would be taken to task quickly. They will have to pay the hefty fix-penalty fine (from $10000- $100000).”

The fixed penalty for an individual is $10000 as starting penalty, and can go up to $50000 (for continuing infringement from the same person).

The fix penalty for a coorporation/company starts at $20000, and can go up to $100000 (for repeat offenders).

 

Plans after moratorium

The Ministry of Fisheries is currently working on a Stand-alone regulation; however, protection is provided under the Offshore Fisheries Management Act (2012).

Mr Batibasaga said a series of stakeholder and community consultation and workshops had been undertaken.

The majority of people have agreed to have the ban on harvesting and sales continued – and there is a need to improve and strengthen the conservation, management, and protection of sea turtles in Fiji- from.

 

Strategies used to retain turtle

population

“The Ministry of Fisheries will continue to work with its stakeholders and strengthen research on identifying and mapping out more nesting and foraging areas and protecting them,” Mr Batibasaga said.

“The Ministry will continue to carry out awareness and education to its communities and it will also work with its Coastal Compliance Unit to increase the level of monitoring against poaching and illegal harvests.”

Edited by Susana Tuilau

 sheenam.chandra@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

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