Guidelines for turtle conservation in Fiji including our Pacific Island neighbours are about to get even more precise.
This is due to the Mamanuca Environment Society’s passionate commitment to protecting the stunning marine and terrestrial environment of the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji and after they launched their four year, tried and tested “Mamanuca Sea Turtle Conservation” project on June 29.
Initially started in 2006 with the Institute of Marine Research (IMR-USP) through an Australian Grant to do research on sea turtles in the Mamanucas, the mission was further boosted through the UNDP Global Environment Facility (GEF ) Small Grant programme of USD$50,000 in 2008.
Over the years, the society toiled tirelessly to promote, educate and assist villagers, communities and resorts in the Mamanuca region on why turtles have to be saved.
Looking back, MES Project Manager Betani Salusalu said even though the journey was not easy, the outcomes are priceless.
Mr Salusalu said the Turtle Project launch outcomes ‘will reflect the future of Turtle Conservation in the Mamanucas, Fiji Islands and through the Pacific Islands’.
“This is a Model project for Fiji and some of the documents coming out of this project are a first for the Fiji Islands and the Pacific – like the Best Practices Guideline and Policy. The presence of the Government Department Representatives and other stakeholders gives good mileage toward this project.”
“MES will now be looking at the phases of implementation to these outcomes to all stakeholders. These will mean working closely with the Government Department, private sectors and environmental bodies and communities in Fiji and within the Pacific Islands.
“Producing these kind of documents is good but the bottom line is how we can effectively implement it to become more realistic on the ground. To be part of our culture, tradition and our daily chores,” says Mr Salusalu who was there in the fore for the past four years.
He further states that turtle conservation was already implemented on most resorts long before MES stepped in.
“In some way it makes our work easier. There was some intiatives on the ground before the project started in 2008. We stepped in and began to engage stakeholders like communities, Resorts and Schools to be able to justify and learn from the need to enhance this project and its implementation.
The first turtle pond was set up at Treasure Island Resort, than Bounty Island Resort before it spread to Vomo and Mana Island Resort.
Three of the world’s seven species of sea turtles nest in Fiji- the green (Chelonia mydas, Vonu Dina), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricate, Taku), and leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea,vonudakulaca, tutuwalu).
Nesting occurs between November and February. Loggerhead turtles are also found in most islands but not known to nest in Fiji.