In today's Fiji Times there is an important article - more important than the numerous descriptions of crimes in Suva. This is one area the detectives in the Interim Government need to get onto!
Fishing industry concerned with fishy mess
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Update: 12.18pm FIJI's fishing industry says incidents of illegal fishing and ireregular trans-shipments and non-compliance with Fiji licence conditions are rampant and out of control.
An industry insider calculates that about 30 to 50 per cent of Fiji's licenced fleet, are non-compliant with their licence conditions, and as such are fishing illegally, with the full knowledge of the Fisheries Ministry.
''This situation is creaming hundreds of thousands of dollars out of State coffers, and creating a grave imbalance with respect to the honest, compliant companies that have to compete against these pirate companies, that operate outside the net,'' the insider said.
The reaction comes in the wake of reports from New Zealand that a dramatic increase in the number of sightings of unauthorized fishing vessels in the western and central Pacific Ocean in the last three months is alarming fisheries officials in the Pacific Islands region.
Speaking during a regional meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency in Wellington, New Zealand, the Executive Director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), Andrew Wright, has advised that there is strong evidence of a significant increase in illegal fishing ranging throughout the central Pacific through French Polynesia, Cook Islands and Kiribati.
According to the insider, Fiji is accepting and assisting, and indeed subsidizing these illegal operators, and there is very strong evidence of large volumes of illegally caught fish being ''laundered'' through Fiji.
''Everyday, more and more scams in relation to illegal fishing, are emerging, and the Fisheries Ministry is just not equipped to deal with them,'' the insider said.
The meeting heard that majority of reports received so far concern large purse seiners flagged to Latin American countries.
These vessels normally operate in the eastern Pacific but as fishing conditions for tuna in that region are reported to be depressed this year vessels are moving west.
Tuna fisheries in the central and western Pacific are managed through the recently established commission which is headquartered in Micronesia.
Mr Wright said that the members of the commission have agreed that only vessels flying the flag of the members of the commission may be authorized to fish in the western and central Pacific.
He added that Latin American countries are not members of the commission and so any of their vessels fishing in the WCPFC Convention Area will be conducting illegal activities.
As such activity undermines the conservation and management measures of the Commission, and adversely impacts on fragile island economies dependent on fishing, the members of the WCPFC treat the threat posed by illegal fishing activity very seriously.
Fiji's acting Fisheries Director Suresh Chand is also attending this meeting and could not be reached for a comment.