as many of you know, turtles have played a big part of my time here in Vava'u, there is sadly a lot of hunting that still occurs and we have been lucky to build relationships to reduce and help rescue turtles in need of care.
Having just attended the Tonga Community Turtle Monitoring and Eco-Tourism workshop in Nuku'alofa, I am hopeful for a positive effort from all stakeholders involved. The project will be lead by MLECCNR (the new acronym for MECC) and Fisheries officers. There is also huge involvement from SPREP and NZ DOC who have secured the funding for this 4 year project to go ahead.
The project will target communities living near to the identified nesting sites to train and engage in monitoring during the nesting season. Through a proposed workshop and monitoring team that will be supporting the communities in Ha'apai and Vava'u we hope to encourage and promote the change to the current hunting. Not an easy task by any means but the goals and objectives are achievable and there are some amazing individuals that have the ability to run this project to the turtles and communities advantage.
NZ DOC and SPREP have worked on this project for quite some while and the workshop was attended by many departments and stakeholders who can all be involved in this project. The Vava'u Turtle Monitoring Program aligns itself well and means that Vava'u, through Kate and VEPA will have great constant support for their initiatives.
The big step for the Vava'u Project now is to re-establish nesting sites as there has been a data gap since 1973. However the project is well equipped and excited to be moving ahead. Kate has started up a website and you can also follow the Facebook page of either VEPA or the Turtle Page. I will also ramble along on here as I do.
The need for current data will provide the template for the program, if anyone sees a turtle in Vava'u it is great to send Kate an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
More updates will come as our project progresses.