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Yadua Island Journal: On a Fijian Island, Hunters Become Conservators of Endangered Turtles

Even though the ban was first imposed more than 20 years ago, it has been enforced only sporadically, and few, if any, violators have been fined or sent to prison, according to Kiji Vukikomoala, a lawyer at the Environmental Law Association.

“The general feeling is these are low-priority cases because the penalties are so low,” Ms. Vukikomoala said. Someone convicted of killing a turtle faces a maximum fine of about $ 240 and up to three months in jail.

The endorsement of a chief is often crucial to involving communities in conservation, said Michael Donoghue, an adviser on threatened and migratory species at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

“If communities don’t want to do it, it doesn’t matter what the law says,’’ Mr. Donoghue said. “Especially in remote areas, it is unlikely to happen.”

The World Wildlife Fund plans to press for an extension of the 10-year moratorium when it runs out next year.

Conservation efforts in Yadua and other islands have demonstrated that turtle populations can expand significantly if the moratorium is observed. But in 2014 the monitoring program ran out of financing, as the World Wildlife Fund put those funds toward saving species in greater danger of extinction.

And so, while participants used to get reimbursed for expenses like boat fuel and phone calls to report their data, now the monitors themselves have to absorb these expenses.

“I guess that is what makes it successful,’’ Mr. Tamata of the World Wildlife Fund said. “It is from the heart rather than for money.”

Mr. Qarau hopes that his conservation work will create a sustainable harvest, enabling Fijians to eat turtles again. He said he wanted future generations to see turtles and be able to taste them. “When they grow up,” he said, “they will see the number of turtles is still good in the village.”

Source: NYT > World

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