Turtle Monitors essential for species protection
Yadua high chief, Turaga na Tuinamata, Jone Tavatava, said the Dau ni Vonu (DnV) network is essential to turtle conservation as they are at the forefront of protecting these iconic creatures.
“Yadua is unique as a lot of hawksbill turtle come to nest here, and the DnV here ensures they are not disturbed to safeguard their nesting activities and survival. They also ensure there is compliance to the current ban on harvesting turtles.”
“The DnV has been very effective since its set-up, and we’ve never had any issues with the protection of turtles here. The issue is with the other communities who do not have nesting beaches and still continue to harvest sea turtles without any permit.”
He stated there was a need for turtle monitors in other non-nesting sites so that their communities are aware of the different threats that sea turtles face.
The chief and DnV member has always been a supporter of the moratorium and had been calling for the extension of the ban as far back as 2014; four years before it was to end. He’s seen the benefits the moratorium has brought in terms of increase in sightings of turtles around Yadua, and is keen to see this continue.
WWF Coastal Fisheries Projects Officer, Laitia Tamata Jnr, adds there needs to be a better connection between the government, stakeholders and communities, and the turtle monitors network is a way to bridge that disconnect.
“I agree that more DnV type of networks is needed but we also need to ensure they are equipped with the necessary tools and information to do the work and update their respective district and provincial councils,” Tamata said.
The Turtle Moratorium from 2009-2018 that ban the harvest of turtles or their eggs, inspired the setup of the Dau Ni Vonu or turtle monitors network in ten turtle nesting sites in Vanua Levu including Yadua Island, a prime location sought out by nesters.
Established in 2010, the DnV network has been instrumental in the support of the growth of sea turtle population in Fiji, and has been successful in roping in turtle hunters, who have made a change for conservation. There are currently 80 DnV in 20 sites around Fiji.
Despite the expiry of the Turtle Moratorium in December 2018, the Ministry of Fisheries has issued a notice that a “ban on the harvest, sale, possession and transport of sea turtles, their eggs or any part or product of a sea turtle” still exists.