The Fiji Sun and others sensationalised the arrest of Macuata men to do with confiscating someone's fish catch that the Macuata men assumed were caught in their qoliqoli area - the Great Sea Reef that came under conservation.
But it is more complex than that - if the Fiji Times journalist is right - that the prosecution is selective (which may be typical these days). From Fiji Times Dec 12
Fishing ground owners accuse police
By THERESA RALOGAIVAU
Friday, December 12, 2008
THE Qoliqoli Committee of Macuata has accused the police of selectively prosecuting fishing ground owners and letting poachers get away with their crimes.
Committee advisor Mosese Nakoroi said several poachers had been arrested by fish wardens and in some instances the police were also involved but no charges were laid.
"Yet when fishing ground owners act to protect their fishing grounds they are arrested and charged," Mr Nakoroi said.
Macuata high chief Ratu Aisea Katonivere was recently charged with larceny for allegedly taking about 900 kilograms of fish from two boats.
Three other Naduri villagers have appeared in court for the same crime.
Mr Nakoroi said the boats were seized off Mali last year for fishing without a license. A boat from Lautoka was seized for the same reason.
"When we reported to the fisheries department and police however nothing was done," he said. "This is unfair because resource owners want to protect and conserve their marine resources for future generations because it is their food source and source of income yet these poachers are not being dealt with."
"Resource owners have been reporting and now they are taking the law into their own hands because they are tired or doing their best without support from the state.
"Earlier this year several boats in Naduri were seized for poaching and fishing wardens called the Fisheries Department to handle the matter and they were told a fisheries officer was on his way but none showed up.
"What has happened now undermines an effort by resource owners to protect their resources."
Deputy Director Police Operations SP Erami Raibe said they would look into the complaint from the committee.
Senivalati Navuku, the co-manager of the WWF Fiji country program, said charges being laid against resources owners protecting their qoliqoli could discourage greater efforts in the future."We are aware of the complaints from qoliqoli owners because a lot of the communities are reporting poaching but nothing has been done about," Mr Navuku said.
Former Prime Minister Laisenia Laisenia Qarase said Ratu Aisea's actions were illegal because he did not own the qoliqoli. "The reality is that Fijians do not own the qoliqoli because the ownership is still with the State and the Qoliqoli Bill's main intention was to transfer ownership to the indigenous Fijians," he said. Mr Qarase said had the bill succeeded resource owners wouldn't be in the predicament they face today.