Sea turtle harvest is still illegal

Youths of Kinoya village ready to set Green Turtle free. Picture: FT FILE/SUPPLIED

SEA turtle harvest is still illegal and those catching the endangered marine species would be fined.

According to the Ministry of Fisheries, the maximum fine is up to $10,000 and the ministry has warned the members of the public that they would take people to task if found consuming or harvesting sea turtles without permits.

Fisheries ministry’s director, Aisake Batibasaga said even though the moratorium on the conservation of sea turtles would end on December 31, this year, the ministry intended to extend the ban through policies and the Fisheries Act.

Mr Batibasaga said one of the main reasons for the extension was the fact that the end of the ban fell along the critical spawning period of the species which began on October through to May.

“The ministry has the powers to extend the moratorium through policies and its regulation,” he said.

“Illegal harvesting of sea turtles is rife in the North and this despite the ministry’s repeated warnings. “Members of the public can contact their nearest fisheries office if they have information about illegal harvesters.”

In a statement, WWF Pacific said there were seven endangered species of turtles in the world of which four species were common in Fiji waters.

The statement revealed that the four species included the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricate) and Pacific Leatherback (Dermochelys Coriacea) turtles which are now critically endangered with the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Green (Chelonia mydas) turtles listed as endangered.

Apart from illegal and unsustainable harvesting of turtles in Fiji and the Pacific, the statement said turtles also faced accidental capture and like humans, were not immune to the impacts of climate change.

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