10 May 2011

Tonga tourism operators campaign to protect turtles

7:07 pm on 10 May 2011

A group of tourism operators in Tonga are planning how they can campaign to protect turtles after buying five large animals from the fish market in Nuku'alofa.

It is legal to catch male turtles in Tonga during a three month season, although Hawksbill and Leatherbacks are protected.

The operator of an eco-tourism operation in E'ua island, Taki Hausia, says he saw two big turtles on their backs waiting to be sold.

He raised more that a thousand US dollars from among tourism operators to buy in the end five turtles the largest of which could be up to a hundred years old:

"It took five grown men to lift these turtles, it wasn't easy , like it was two on each side and one at the back and we were struggling."

Local media reports say some of the turtles were the critically endangered Hawkesbill species and that several were females.

But a senior fisheries officer says they were all male and all Green turtles, which are endangered, although not critically .