CAPTION: Mamanuca Environment Society Project Manager Betani Salusalu, right, and a staff member of Castaway Island Resort cuddle a Hawksbill turtle before it was released in the sea last year. Photo: SHALENDRA PRASAD.
The status of turtle nesting sites destroyed by Cyclone Evan will be determined at the 2nd bi-annual Dau Ni Vonu meeting for 2013 to be held on Yaqaga Island in Bua province tomorrow.
Cyclone Evan had adversely affected all nesting sites located within the 12 areas of the Dau Ni Vonu network however the worst impacted was Yadua Island.
“At the first meeting held in January there was zero nesting data recovered from Yadua Island because all the nests were destroyed either by heavy wave action, sand inundation or coastal erosion,” said WWF South Pacific Marine Species Coordinator Laitia Tamata.
Turtle nesting areas includes Katawaqa Island, Yadua Island, Kia Island, Nakalou in Dreketi district, Sasa district, Raviravi in Macuata district, Mali Island, Yaqaga andGaloa Islands in Bua and Koroinasolo and Naivaka also in Bua.
Since Cyclone Evan, turtle monitors with the help of their communities have been replanting native trees on nesting beaches, to halt the course of coastal erosion and protect nesting areas, in preparation for the upcoming nesting season to start in September.
Midway into the last nesting season, Cyclone Evan struck. However, there is hope that the rehabilitative efforts carried out by turtle monitors would have helped save thousands of turtle eggs, allowing them to hatch normally and return to sea.
“We will determine all this with the data to be provided by the turtle monitors, for instance the increasing number of nests, empty shell counts and so forth,” Tamata said.
The meeting that is to be held for the first time on Yaqaga Island also involves multiple stakeholder participation to strengthen the turtle monitoring effort.
“For the first time we will have a representative from the Police Force to report on cases of illegal turtle harvesting, the Environment and Fisheries department, as well as representatives from the Provincial Office to talk about the cultural importance of conserving turtles,” Tamata said.
“It’s important for turtle monitors to know that the hard work they are putting in is being augmented by the efforts of these various enforcement and compliance agencies.
“Over the years of meetings we have moved the venue around to the various turtle monitoring sites within the network which is one way of ensuring that this is a community effort and that the communities and not WWF South Pacific, own the Dau Ni Vonu network.
“It’s their time, passion and hard work that keep this network alive and the population of marine turtles growing,” Tamata said.
At the end of the two day meet, Dau Ni Vonu’s (turtle monitors) will come up with an action plan for the next six months of monitoring.
WWF South Pacific with the help of partners setup the Dau Ni Vonu network in 2010 to support the Fiji Sea Turtle Recovery Plan to grow sea turtle numbers.