Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) and Mana Island Resort have started tagging turtle, ready to be released back into the wild for another sperm of life. Tagging of sea turtles is very important in terms of research and science and monitoring their behavior and their movements is a key issues. Through research, Fiji Island have been identified as one of the most important groups of islands in terms of foraging and nesting grounds for thousands of sea turtle. Also through satellite tagging, Fiji seems to be the centre where most of these sea turtles that are satellite tagged goes through, throughout the years, whether during their nesting or foraging.
In the Mamanucas where the heart of tourism in Fiji, sea turtle conservation is one of the priority because 80% – 90% of these remote islands are nesting and foraging grounds to hawksbill, loggerheads and green turtles. Through a 2 years UNDP GEF Small Grant sponsored programme, the Mamanuca Turtle Conservation Project, Mamamanuca Environment Society (MES) an its project partner Institute of Marine Resources(IMR) have managed to change the behavior and perception of the local communities toward harvesting turtle. This is one of our major challenges within the project and education and awareness with workshops are the key areas that have made this project come alive and effective.
In the Mamanucas, we are now experience nesting of sea turtle in our beaches and this have marked the nesting seasons here in Fiji Islands (October, November – April) every year round. To name a few, Tavarua island Resort, Mana Island Resort and including inhabitant islands that are not monitored have reported hatchling of nesting on their beaches and this was experienced and witness by house guests that are on the islands.
MES, have also received reports from resorts, dive operators, water sports, and even tourist cruise ships (South Sea Cruises) of numerous sitting everywhere within the Mamanuca regions of huge Sea Turtles and this have shown the effectiveness of the Sea turtle conservation programme in the Mamanucas through its Resorts, Communities engagement and Schools marine programmes.
Through the Mamanuca Sea Turtle conservation Project, communities in the Mamanucas like, Solevu, Yaro, Tavua and Yanuya village have committed to banned harvesting of sea turtle for good in the region and this is monitored through their village meeting by “Turaga ni Koro” in these villages. Also through the project they have developed and put together a community-based management plan for their district (Malolo District) based on sea turtle conservation and the management of there marine resources within the district.
The Mamanuca sea turtle conservation project is a pilot model project for the Fiji Islands where documents like Community-based Management Plans for communities and Best Practices Guideline and Policy for resorts and operators could be adopted for the management of sea turtles through the Fiji Islands.
Previously, in 2008 WWF- South Pacific and the National Trust of Fiji satellite tagged “Radini Yadua” a female nester in Yadua Island and the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) together with Fisheries Department and SPREP of Samoa, satellite tagged “Adi Mamanuca” a female nester from “Vunavadra” island, native name and home to South Sea Island in the Mamanucas. These two satellites tagged nesters then monitored through NOOA satellite programme to track and identify their movement for a couple of months throughout. As a result of these, it was then confirmed that these two nesters are local Sea turtle because of their movement and locations. Tagging is very important because it give us a sense of knowledge and ideas as to the life of Sea Turtle and their activities.
Many of our Sea Turtle are harvested for their meats, shells and eggs and this is not only a local problem but a demand globally. Many of our Sea Turtles are also listed under the IUCN Red listing as endanger because most of these sea turtle never reached the maturity age of 29 – 30 years to be able to reproduced (to be able to lay eggs). Therefore conservation of sea turtle and their protection is very important today for the future.