Udu District Communities Reaffirm Commitment to Turtle Protection and Conservation

Posted on 04 June 2023
Group photo of representatives from the four of the five villages that are part of Udu district and WWF-Pacific staff part of the discussions at Vunikodi village.
© WWF-Pacific / Ravai Vafo'ou
Macuata, Vanua Levu, Fiji (3rd June 2023) – Five villages under the District of Udu have made the commitment to curb their harvesting of sea turtles and to seek out alternative means of the presentation and preparation of traditional foods (magiti) for traditional occasions (soqos).
The clan leaders of Nukusa, Cawaro, Nabouono, Nukudamu and Vunikodo agreed at the 2021 Bosevanua (the premier traditional governance body for any District in Fiji) to significantly reduce their harvesting efforts, despite there being an allowance for this in the Offshore Fisheries Management Act (OFMA) and the Endangered and Protected Species Act (EPS).
The Turaga na Tui Cawaro, Ratu Iliesa Jovili in his traditional welcome remarks to the (World Wide Fund for Nature) WWF team agreed that the specific provisions in the relevant laws had the potential to be loosely applied and was quite pleased to affirm his commitment and that of his clan members (yavusa) to continue to support the protection and conservation of sea turtles.
“In a landmark decision two years ago (2021), the members of the Bose Vanua banned the harvesting of sea turtles for any functions and celebrations as an effort to protect sea turtle populations and their nesting sites”, said Ratu Jovili.
He added, “Sea turtles are part of our traditional customs. As you know, our customs also play a central role in our livelihoods but we also recognise that as traditional custodians of our environment and surrounding marine areas that we have the responsibility to be responsible stewards of our marine environment.”
The existing legislation imposes a penalty of FJD$10,000 (USD$5,000) for individuals found in violation of this regulation.
Recognising the commitment made by these five villages, WWF will work with the district to identify alternative livelihood options and develop plans for the effective conservation of their marine resources, in a process that will also include the integration of viewpoints from women and youth.
Udu is one of 14 districts that line the Great Sea Reef (GSR) and are therefore traditional custodians of a section of this barrier reef. The GSR was one of four priority seascapes commitment by the Fijian Government in 2017 at the United Nations (UN) Oceans Conference.
For context, it is estimated that close to 80 percent of fish feeding the greater Suva urban population is currently sourced from the GSR.
Results from a 2022 report titled; the Status and trends of coral reefs and associated coastal habitats in Fiji’s Great Sea Reef report, suggested an urgent need to increase fisheries management and sustainability in the [GSR] region to reverse decline in reef health.
A recommendation from the same report highlighted the need to replicate marine area networks set up within each qoliqoli (traditional fishing ground) to increase fish abundance and biomass while also being equitable for local communities.

WWF-Pacific’s Fiji Conservation Director, Francis Areki, encouraged by the willingness of the Vunikodi community, highlighted how community buy-in was important for the success of any conservation measure.

 "The collaboration with the local communities is vital in ensuring the success of our conservation initiatives. By identifying alternative income-generating opportunities and raising awareness about the threats faced by sea turtles, we can work together towards a future where both marine ecosystems and communities thrive", said Areki.
He added, “WWF remains committed to continuing its engagement with the communities of Udu District and supporting their efforts in conserving sea turtles while exploring sustainable livelihood options.”

For media inquiries, please contact:
Ravai Vafo’ou, Communications Officer, Email: rvafoou@wwfpacific.org; Phone: +679 2382 192  
About WWF
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. More: panda.org
Group photo of representatives from the four of the five villages that are part of Udu district and WWF-Pacific staff part of the discussions at Vunikodi village.
© WWF-Pacific / Ravai Vafo'ou Enlarge
Vunikodi village is one of five villages that make up Udu district in the province of Macuata, Vanua Levu.
© WWF-Pacific / Ravai Vafo'ou Enlarge
WWF-Pacific's Fiji Conservation Director, Francis Areki, presenting on the importance of sea turtles to participants at Vunikodi village, Udu dustrict, Macuata.
© WWF-Pacific / Ravai Vafo'ou Enlarge
Participants providing feedback to a group presentation at Vunikodi village, Udu district, Macuata.
© WWF-Pacific / Ravai Vafo'ou Enlarge