The Ministry of Fisheries is sending out a strong warning to people engaging in the harvesting, killing and selling of any sea turtles species and reminding everyone that the sea turtle ban is still in place.
This comes after a confiscation of four slaughtered turtles weighing around 90 kilograms that was caught at the Naivakacau Landing in Tailevu on Saturday morning which was on its way to the market.
After an anonymous caller informed the Ministry of Fisheries officials based in Wainibokasi, the turtle meat was confiscated and those apprehended was taken in for police questioning.
Permanent Secretary for Fisheries, Craig Strong said that it is appalling that people have a total disregard for the law as the turtle ban has been well publicized.
“People who are purchasing the turtle meat are just as guilty as they are the ones that are driving the demand for turtles,” said Strong.
Strong added that the ministry will pursue all avenues to prosecute all involved.
Ministry officials are also aware of the areas involved in turtle harvesting and is strongly requesting communities and villages to adhere to the ban in place.
Public awareness and consultations have been carried out throughout the country and there should not be any excuse for illegal turtle harvesting, killing and selling.
Under Regulation 5 of the Offshore Fisheries Management Regulations 2014 (OFMR), the provisions of the OFMR apply to “all Fiji Fisheries waters” so would apply in all internal, inshore and offshore areas of Fiji.
The specific ban under the OFMR applies to the killing, taking, landing, selling or offering or exposing for sale, dealing in, transporting, receiving or possessing any of the following sea turtle species;
- Leatherback sea turtle (Vonu Tutuwalu)
- Green sea turtle (Vonu Dina)
- Loggerhead sea turtle (Tuvonu)
- Hawksbill sea turtle (Vonu Taku)
- Olive Ridley sea turtle (Vonu Damu)
These species constitute all the common species currently found in Fiji waters, and the restrictions apply to their eggs and/or any of their parts or products.
The species of sea turtles found in Fiji are all listed internationally as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered and therefore require careful management to ensure sustainability.
The penalties for any breach of this ban are as follows;
- For individuals, an instant fine of $10,000, with the potential of up to $50,000 in fines.
- For corporations, an instant fine of $20,000, with the potential of up to $100,000 in fines.