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Fisheries Division committed to enforcing turtles fishing Regulations

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15 May 2011 On Friday 6th May, five large marine turtles were bought from a local fisherman by a group of conservationists. Fisheries Division staff were on site soon after being notified by a concerned member of the public to verify the fisherman's compliance with the Fisheries Regulations. The Fisheries Division staff found no violations of the Fisheries Regulations and no further action was deemed necessary in regards to the fisherman. These turtles were transferred to the Fisheries Division aquaculture tanks in order to recover before being released back to sea. Regrettably, one of the turtles died over the weekend as a result of severe stress. The remaining four turtles were released on Monday 9th of May. These turtles have been the focus of several media articles in the past few days. As such, the Fisheries Division would like to address some issues raised in these articles and to clarify the regulations on turtle fishing.

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
of turtle
(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
Schedule 12
(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.

Last Updated ( Friday, 27 May 2011 12:11 )  

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