Firstly, all of the turtles brought to the Fisheries Division have been identified as Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and not Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata). Distinguishing features of the Green turtle include a single pair of prefrontal scales (in front of the eyes) and smooth,non-overlapping scutes (scales on the shell).
Secondly, all of the turtles have been identified by Fisheries staff as being male turtles. Male Green turtles have a flat plastron (underside) and long tail.
The Fisheries Division is fully committed to the conservation, management, sustainable utilisation and development of the fisheries resources including marine turtles. This is recognised in the Fisheries Management (Conservation) Regulations 2008, highlighted below.
Additionally, the Fisheries Division works closely with regional organisations such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) on turtle monitoring programs.
Fisheries Management (Conservation) Regulations 2008,
Section 24 Turtles
No person shall -
(a) disturb, take, have in his possession, sell or purchase any turtle eggs;
(b) interfere with, destroy or disturb in any way any turtle nest
(c) use a spear or spear gun for the purpose of capturing, killing or taking any species
(d) at any time fish, capture or destroy any male turtle the shell length of which is less
than 45 centimeters as illustrated in Schedule 9
(e) fish for, capture, possess, sale or purchase, or destroy any turtle during the closed season specified in Schedule 12; or
(f) fish, capture or destroy any Leatherback turtle of the species Dermochelys coriacea as specified in
(g) possess or sell turtle meat out of the shell, unless it has been certified by an authorized officer that it came from a turtle of legal size;
(h) at any time, fish, possess, capture or destroy any female turtle as specified in Schedule 12
In addition, Schedule 12 of the Regulations makes clear the following:
• For male turtles of all species except Leatherback turtles (D. coriacea), the closed season is from August until February
• For Leatherback turtles (D. coriacea), the closed season is all year
• For female turtles of all species, the closed season is all year
Additional information on the Fisheries Regulations and the identification of turtle species may be found on the Fisheries Division website: www.tongafish.gov.to
Illegal fishing activity compromises the integrity of the Kingdom's fisheries resources.
The Fisheries Division recognises the important role of the public in monitoring fishing activity and urges people to be familiar with and comply with the Fisheries Regulations and to report any illegal fishing activities.
Issued by the: Ministry of Agriculture and Food,Forests and Fisheries, Fisheries Division, Nuku'alofa, 2011.