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Breeding season ban protects endangered turtles

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 31, 2009) – In Fiji, villagers have been warned against catching turtles this festive season following reports of the illegal harvesting of turtles in some coastal villages of Macuata.

[PIR editor’s note: Macuata is one of Fiji's fourteen Provinces, and one of three based principally on the northern island of Vanua Levu, occupying the north-eastern 40 percent of the island. It has a land area of 2004 square kilometers. The Province has 114 villages spread over 12 districts. It has a population of approximately 73,000.]

North Fisheries Officer Aminio Raimuria said that unless there was an exemption authorized by the minister, no turtle could be harvested.

"This is the festive season and there will be feasting going on and as turtle meat is a traditional food for coastal villages, we fear illegal harvesting could happen," he said. "The four months from November through to January are breeding season for turtles and the purpose of the moratorium on the harvest of turtles is to improve their numbers."

The district's resources committee said that turtles were being harvested for events that were not traditionally important.

Committee treasurer Joseva Rasiga said that in a meeting last week they decided the reckless harvesting of turtles must stop.

"People are harvesting turtles for any purpose, for birthdays and for events that are not traditionally important," Mr. Rasiga said.

"We are worried that with this trend continuing, turtle numbers within the district will deplete and when we really need turtles for a traditional event they will be hard to find."

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