Turtle Monitoring Programme for Tuvalu
Turtle meat is a traditional delicacy for those from the Tuvalu Islands. Before you reproach this, marine turtle meat is also considered a traditional delicacy for most other Pacific island nations also. However, there is a wave of change as Pacific people have come to understand that the turtle is not sighted as often as it used to be and most marine turtle species are now labelled as ‘threatened’, with one common species in the Pacific, the Hawksbill turtle labelled as “critically endangered”.
Lui Bell, left, and project team from Tuvalu
Unlike the Moa that was eaten to extinction in New Zealand, a growing awareness is ensuring that the Pacific develop marine turtle conservation programmes. Yet, the decline of the turtle population is also due to habitat degradation, commercial trade and mortalities through incidental capture in fishing gear.
Lui Bell, the Marine Species Officer with SPREP has returned from Tuvalu where he began the initial process of developing a marine turtle conservation (monitoring) programme for the small island nation. This falls in line with SPREP’s regional Marine Turtle Action Plan 2003 – 2007.
“The Government Agencies and NGO met in Tuvalu were very receptive to having a conservation and monitoring programme for turtles,” said Bell, “like all Pacific Islands we do care about our resources and they are very interested in developing a programme. In particular, the awareness programme, as the islands are very scattered. It’s pretty hard to get the information out to the outer islands where most of the activity takes place, so that’s probably one of the first things we would try to do, create the awareness.”
Right: Fuagea Islet, Funafuti
Some of the identified turtle conservation issues under the SPREP regional Marine Turtle Action Plan 2003 – 2007 are the limited monitoring and research of marine turtle population, lack of data on harvesting and interactions, inadequate marine turtle management regimes and practices and the lack of information exchanges. These issues are few of the many that will be addressed in Tuvalu with the progress of a Marine Turtle Conservation Programme. It comes as a welcome development for stakeholders of the island who would like to grow their experience with such. In December 2006 a 10-day turtle monitoring survey on Funafuti was conducted collaboratively by the Tuvalu Department of Environment, Department of Fisheries and the Tuvalu Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, and administered by the Institute of Marine Resources, USP. A fisheries socio-economic survey including turtles has also been completed recently. However, there is no on-going national programme to assess trends of turtle catches and nesting populations in Tuvalu.
“The meetings in Tuvalu were good, they are very keen and have a good team. Hopefully an active network will develop between the islands with the Tuvalu Department of Environment, Department of Fisheries, the Tuvalu Umbrella of NGOs and Funafuti Kaupule (island council). They all collaborate well together, but it is recommended that their Environment Department be responsible for the overall coordination of the Marine Turtle Conservation Programme.”
Vasafua Islet, Funafuti
Four main needs were identified for the turtle programme in Tuvalu - the awareness work, training, a database to enable proper turtle monitoring and the basic equipment and material needed. A turtle nesting monitoring programme for the up-coming nesting season in November has been drafted for Funafuti. SPREP, in collaboration with partners, will carry this out.
Two particular islets on the western side of Funafuti are active nesting grounds for sea turtles, Vasafua and Fuagea.
Bell’s next visit will be to Kiribati in early August to look at the development of a turtle conservation programme there.
For further details please contact Marine Species Officer Lui Bell:
Phone (685) 21929
Fax (685) 20231
Tuvalu Online Home