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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 3) – The ban imposed on the killing of turtles in Fiji is applicable to everyone except chiefs, says the Ministry of Fisheries.

However, an application could be made for a permit to allow turtles to be caught for special occasions, said Ministry of Fisheries chief executive Apolosi Turaganivalu.

He said yesterday that under the turtle ban, the minister was the only one who could issue a permit to take turtles from the sea.

Mr. Turaganivalu was responding to queries following the slaughter of nine turtles for a feast to mark the installation of Rakiraki high chief, the Tui Navitilevu, Ratu Meli Bolobolo last week. The villagers from Malake caught these turtles as part of their traditional role for Ratu Meli's installation.

Malake Island herald Menusi Varoi, 68, said that since they were traditional fishermen of the Tui Navitilevu, their duty during the installation was to get ten turtles.

[PIR editor’s note: Malake is a small island just off the northern coast of Viti Levu island in Fiji.]

They were able to capture nine.

Mr. Varoi said they were aware of the ban but at the same time were required to play their traditional role.

Ratu Meli said the turtles were of great significance in the installation.

"If the right man is installed, the turtles come to shore," he said.

Mr. Turaganivalu said the ban on killing turtles was imposed because they are under threat of becoming extinct.

However, he said the ministry understood its significance and importance in the Fijian tradition.

"Turtles are food for the chiefs," he said.

He said if nine turtles were caught at one time, it showed the significance of Ratu Meli's installation.

"You rarely see a school of turtles," he said.

October 4, 2005

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