CAPTION: Turtles monitors tagged this turtle during meet on Yaqaga island. Photo: SUPPLIED.
Turtle nests have rebounded from the devastation caused by Cyclone Evan that hit Fiji in December 2012, destroying most nesting sites.
Dau ni Vonu (turtle monitors) that met on Yaqaga island in Bua province recently reported an increase in turtle nests owing largely to the efforts put in by communities to rehabilitate nesting beaches and islands after the Cyclone.
Strong wave action had washed away nests, eroded nesting beaches and uprooted coastal plants that had afforded the nests with some protection.
The Dau ni Vonu network meeting heard that communities committed to turtle monitoring work had rallied and replanted coastal trees with more such activities planned for the next six months.
Turtles nesting beaches on Yadua Island were the worst hit, with the loss of 12 nests during the cyclone.
“At four of the sites, all the trees were uprooted, only sand was left behind, “reported Pita Qarau the leader of turtle monitors on the island.
“For the next six months in addition to our normal turtle monitoring activities we will also be planting a lot of coastal trees to stop erosion of nesting beaches and to protect turtles while they nest.
“We are happy to see that soon after Cyclone Evans some turtles had continued to come and nest on Yadua and their eggs have hatched.
“It’s just wonderful to see that turtles are so resilient and while we fight to protect them, they are fighting also to keep surviving for many generations to come,” Qarau said.
Turtle monitors from various monitoring sites reported increases in egg shell counts reflecting hatchling rates.
In one site alone, 2,000 hatchlings from 14 nests that had re-established after Evan had passed were recorded and as many as 28 turtles were observed foraging on beaches nearby.
WWF South Pacific Marine Species Coordinator Laitia Tamata said without the help of turtle monitors in rehabilitating nesting sites and observing the monitoring of turtle protection laws, the marine turtle population would have taken a battering.
“The plan for the next six months is to increase awareness within neighboring districts, greater focus on nesting beach surveys and rehabilitation of nesting sites,” he said.
“All in all, after Evan, turtle nests are recovering and turtle monitors forge on.”
The Dau ni Vonu program covers Kia, Mali, Nakalou, Raviravi, Kavewa and Druadrua islands in the Macuata province and Yaqaga, Yadua and Naivaka in the Bua province.