Surveys for cultural and traditional knowledge on marine turtles

With the support of the SPREP led By-catch and Integrated Ecosystem Management (BIEM) Initiative, Tonga’s Ministry for the Environment (MEIDECC), Ministry of Fisheries and VEPA are working together to update and collect community information on the cultural uses and traditional knowledge on marine turtles in Tonga.

The Tongatapu survey team Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry for the Environment (MEIDECC) and VEPA team has conducted 34 surveys in Tongatapu gathering critical traditional knowledge on marine turtles.

The Tongatapu survey team from Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry for Environment (MEIDECC) and VEPA team conducted 34

surveys in Tongatapu gathering critical traditional knowledge on marine turtles.

Tonga has four known species of marine turtles: hawksbill, green, leatherback and loggerhead that are facing multiple threats to the species survival including climate change, habitat destruction, harvesting and bycatch.

Both hawksbill and green turtles are listed under the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species as critically endangered and endangered respectively.  

A green turtle rescued by Ministry of Environment and VEPA was released by the Ministry of Fisheries in early 2021.

Traditionally, turtles are harvested for cultural events and subsistence. Management plans need to be updated based on an understanding of the cultural knowledge and traditional uses to ensure their effectiveness and that all needs are considered.   The survey team has collected information across 3 island groups (Tongatapu, Vava’u and Ha’apai) with the survey concluding at the end of July 2021. Sand temperature data continues to be collected using temperature loggers that were placed in the sand in February. These two pieces of information will be presented in reports and used to strengthen marine turtle populations in Tonga.  

Team member conducts surveys with community fishers.

The BIEM Initiative is implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) as part of the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) programme funded by the European Union and Government of Sweden.  

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