Sea turtles are one of the Earth’s most ancient creatures that have been around for over 150 Million years. Mamanuca Environment Society together with its member resorts and community stakeholders are leading the conservation of the critically endangered sea turtle around the Mamanuca group of islands. Turtle nesting period is from October to April every year.
According to MES Project Manager, Marica Vakacola ‘The UNDP/GEF Small Grant Program Mamanuca Sea Turtle Conservation Project preliminary community/ resort survey this year determined 18 islands in the Mamanuca Region as that serves as common nesting beaches for Hawksbill and Green turtles with 20 common feeding grounds. On the 26th of September, at around 4 pm in the afternoon, a spectacular observation by two tourists and reported by Emosi Lasaqa, found a Hawksbill turtle hatchling crawling down the beach on the uninhabited island of Monuriki. “We guided the hatchling to sea by allowing it to crawl naturally to sea. Being an unidentified male or female turtle, this practice will enhance maximum information gathering of the beach that promotes more nesting on the same beach during adult stage in future. “We later walked along the beach and did not find a sign of the nester nor other hatchling from the same clutch” added Emosi. ‘This unique encounter will be additional information for the 2014 Mamanuca Region data updated in the Regional Turtle Database- Turtle Research Monitoring Database System (TRED),” said Marica. Sea turtle populations have been threatened that may result in extinction if not protected. The following simple guidelines would help in conserving their habitat and their population.
- Higher life expectancy(lives for longer period) and it takes 30-50 yrs to become fertile and then lay eggs
- Turtles can drown if prevented from reaching the surface of the sea to breathe.
- Turtles remain in the same region for years and, as adults, and female sea turtles return to the same nesting area year after year where they were born. If nesting colony is destroyed, the turtles may never return.
- It can lay 80-200 eggs each time and can give birth 3-5 times during its breeding season
- Turtles feed around sea grass beads and marine algae within the coral reef ecosystem
- Litter is dangerous, especially plastic bags, which can be mistaken for jellyfish- a favorite turtle food.
In The Water
- Watch for turtles while boating- boat strikes can kill turtles.
- Do not disturb resting, sleeping or feeding turtles.
- Never try to spear, harass, catch, or ride turtles.
- DO NOT TOUCH or FEED TURTLE.
On The Beach
During breeding seasons, some special considerations should be taken when visiting turtle nesting beaches.
- Avoid damaging incubating nests- STAY AWAY FROM NESTING BEACH.
- Do not leave large items (such as chairs, umbrellas or vehicle) on the beach that can obstruct a turtle’s path and prevent egg- laying.
- Keep pets away, especially dogs, as they can endanger eggs and hatchlings.
- Shield or switch off lighting that is visible from the beach.
Watching Nesting Turtles
Turtles are very vulnerable on land, and a startled turtle may return to the sea before her eggs can successfully be laid. Please follow these simple rules:
- Stay quiet and move slowly.
- Do not approach or photograph any turtles that have not yet laid eggs.
- Make minimal use of flashlights and never shine lights directly into a turtle’s face.
- Move away if the turtle shows signs of distress.
- Never disturb turtle eggs and hatchlings.
What You Can Do
- Support local sea turtle conservation initiatives and observe the current Turtle Moratorium under the Fiji Fisheries Act (CAP 158)
- Protect nesting beaches and feeding grounds
- DO not hunt for eggs, meat or shell
- Do not disturb nesters, eggs or hatchling
- Do not buy or sell any sea turtle products- turtles are strictly protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and Endangered and Protected Species Act
The Society hopes to continue its biological survey and gather as much information through close collaboration with the local communities in the Vanua Lawa and the member resorts and properties in the Mamanuca Region. The Society is grateful to the UNDP/GEF funded Mamanuca Sea turtle project, its Cooperate Sponsors, partner government and regional agencies for their continuous support towards all Conservation Initiatives in the region.