The Society in 2006 included a new project amongst its existing list of projects, in recognition of the plight this vulnerable creature is facing, and also because of the many breeding or nesting grounds being discovered in the Mamanucas. MES with other organisations in Fiji are cooperating to gather information to finalise a Turtle Conservation Plan for Fiji. This is lead by the Fiji Department of Fisheries, WWF, and the Institute of Marine Resources of USP, which is working with a number of NGOs, communities and the tourist industry to assist in collecting data.
In 2008 MES finalised a grant to the Society totalling US$50,000 by Global Environment Fund Small Grants Project to better assist its turtle conservation efforts in the Mamanucas. The project serves the following purposes—to improve turtle conservation through promoting community and resort education and awareness, establishing protocol/policy to monitor breeding and foraging of marine turtles, integrating biological research components at community and resort levels, formulating a community conservation communication for the two sectors—community and resort – and by establishing standardised turtle conservation guidelines on best practices for resorts.
For MES, this grant will have an enormous impact on its existing work with the communities and resorts to protect turtle populations. We look forward to implementing the project with the knowledge that we will be fully supported by the four main village communities and resorts in the Mamanuca region. The project will be independently monitored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
One of the first outputs of the above collaboration is to map the turtle nesting beaches of Fiji and estimate the number of nesters. Islands in the Mamanucas confirmed by sighting to be breeding or nesting sites for turtles include, Namotu, Tavarua, Mana, Treasure, Navini and South Sea Island.
In collaboration with the Society, Mana Island Resort and Spa has begun an Adopt–a–Turtle program in support of the Mamanuca Turtle Conservation Project. Apart from attracting visitors, the programme in the attempt to maximise survival rates, aims to assist in bringing back the turtle population in Fiji.
Mana Island Resort & Spa have designated a day every month to contribute to the environment and included in this is the activity of tagging and releasing turtles. The turtles are aged 1–2 years before they are tagged and released.
The Society in collaboration with the Fiji Department of Fisheries and the Institute of Marine Resources at the University of the South Pacific here in Fiji are working together to see that best practices for such a programme are developed.
To learn more about turtles please check our Marine Turtle page