Turtle conservation awareness has taken the next level in the form of lasting roadside campaigns or billboards that scream the turtle truth.
The first signboard was erected near Nabouwalu jetty to capture as many as possible the thousands of eyes and minds thatpass through the port, either departing or arriving on Vanua Levu shores.
A communications initiative of the WWF Swiss funded WWF South Pacific Marine Species Programme, the boards have been placed in areas of high population density to maximise awareness.
“This is a way of extending turtle conservation awareness outside the usual conservation audiences, to everybody because we are all responsible for turtles, not just the fishermen or the qoliqoli owners,” said Marine Species Coordinator Laitia Tamata.
“We need to inform the public clearly and succinctly the law and its breaches so that none can claim ignorance of it.”
Written in the iTaukei, the signboards clearly spell out the turtle moratorium that forbids and criminalises the molesting, taking or killing of any turtle species, selling, offering or exposure for sale or exporting of any turtle flesh or shell.
It is also illegal to dig up, use or destroy turtle eggs of any species.
Furthermore, the signboards outline the penalties of breaching the moratorium – $500 fine, a three-months prison term or both.
For killing inordinately large numbers of turtles, an offender may be punished under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna or CITES that quotes a five years prison term, $20,000 fine or both.
The Nabouwalu signboard declares support for turtle conservation happening at Yadua Island, the main conservation site for Bua province.
The second signboard is erected near the Nakadrudru jetty in Lekutu district, which is a meet and greet and exit point for residents from the outliers of Bua province – Yaqaga, Galoa and Naivaka.
This board declares support for the turtle conservation site at Yaqaga Island.
The final board in Labasa Town declares support for turtle conservation work in Kavewa, north of Vanua Levu.
“In promoting awareness of turtle laws, the boards help the work of turtle conservation and habitat protection, not just for turtles but for thousands of other marine species that we are saving through the turtle protection programme,” Tamata said.