THE passion for turtle protection continues to grow with 17 new monitors joining the ranks of those who have volunteered and vowed to protect the world's ancient mariners.
The new monitors are from Naiviqiri, Nasau and Tavea villages and Yaqaga and Galoa islands in Bua along with those from Korotubu Village and Mali Island in Macuata.
The inclusion features the expansion of the Dau Ni Vonu network to Galoa Island, reportedly an illegal turtle harvesting hot spot in Bua Province.
Marine species co-ordinator Laitia Tamata said the induction package focused on a turtle's biology, turtle tagging, protection of nesting sites and nesting beach surveys, and the moratorium banning turtle harvesting.
"Equipped with this information, a turtle monitor can confidently go about his duties that also involve advocating for turtle protection among peers, relatives, and friends within the communities they live," he said.
"Awareness is an important tool a monitor must use to fight illegal turtle harvesting, sharing the turtle gospel when and wherever possible, at village and district meetings, and make a stand for turtle protection that includes abstinence from turtle meat consumption.
"It's not always an easy thing for a turtle monitor to stand up in front of their village or elders and advocate for turtle protection because they challenge prevailing false beliefs that turtles cannot go extinct.
"The fact that they abstain from eating turtle meat to show a steadfast commitment to the cause, even if the turtle is legally harvested, is ridiculed by relatives and peers to the point where they may be taunted about their turtle hunting past."
All of the turtle monitors, Mr Tamata said, were one time turtle hunters.