FIVE Hawksbill turtles were released off Vio Island in Lautoka during the Crest Chicken Agriculture show as part of the Mamanuca Environment Society and Ministry of Fisheries and Forest’s Ridge to Reef program.

Three were released on Friday 10, August by the Minister for Primary Industries, Joketani Cokanasiga, Minister of Youth and Sports, Viliame Naupoto and Director Fisheries Sanaila Naqali.

The other two, only three months old were released on Saturday 11 August after the show officially closed.

The biggest of the five turtles-a one year eight months old female hawksbill  was tagged at Vomo Island by the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) on Monday 23rd July at around 9:45 am.

Her freedom was cut short after a she was caught accidentally by Mohammed Ashik, a fisherman at Lovu, Lautoka on Saturday 4 August, just fifteen days after she was released.

Severely persecuted for “tortoiseshell” jewelry, this turtle derives its name from the hooked beak formed by its yellowish jaws.

It is the only sea turtle with overlapping carapace scales (lacking when very young or very old). Hawksbill sea turtles have two pairs of prefrontal plates between the eyes.  This distinctive mouth helps to differentiate the hawksbill from other species of sea turtle.

Department of Fisheries Director Sanaila Naqali said tagging and releasing of the turtles was an essential strategy in keeping track of the endangered species and would aid them in identifying sanctuaries for turtles to breed in during their mating season.

“This is also for the public’s awareness on how we view the conservation and management of turtles in Fiji because if these creatures are not managed the way we want it to be, it won’t be sustainable and therefore we won’t be meeting the objectives of our Ministry , which is to ensure our resources are used sustainably,’’ he said.

The Minister for Primary Industries, Joketani Cokanasiga applauded MES’s efforts in conservation saying, their (MES) involvement added another dimension in the Ministry’s Ridge to Reef initiative.

Mr Cokanasiga said marine and land conservation in particular were the most important things highlighted in this years show.

MES Media and Public Relation Officer Emosi Lasaqa on the other hand say, taking part in the Agriculture Show was an eye opener and has put many things in perspective.

“It was a huge success, a real victory to conservation as we were able to communicate with those who have no idea on what we do in the Mamanuca Group.  We usually worked with the tourists and workers in the resorts in the Mamanucas and to be given a chance to reach many people in the span of five days and half is priceless.

“This is the first time for us to step out of our boundary and we absolutely going to do it again if given a chance. As of mid day Friday 10 August, statistics from the Ministry of Fisheries and Forest revealed that a massive total of 15000 people have visited and seen the Ridge to Reef setup. That proved that our booth was famous.”

“We are also grateful to our sponsors, ANZ Bank, Air Pacific and Island Brewery for the promotional materials.”

Children admiring the turtles on display at the Agriculture show