Frozen tuna catch. (Photo: Terje Engoe)
Tuna management plan under review
Friday, April 20, 2012, 00:50 (GMT + 9)
Fiji is evaluating how to slash the number of chartered fishing vessels because “partners” may offer the service at lower costs, according to the Fisheries Department.
The Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association has expressed concern regarding the amount of licences issued to operators and overfishing and there have been recent consultations among stakeholders and key players of the fisheries sector over the Tuna Management Development Plan.
Director of Fisheries Sanaila Naqali responded that the purpose of charter fishing vessels is to assist indigenous operators and businesses and the vessels had to be brought in.
He assured that he respected the views of the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association, and noted that a decision had not been finalised on how to deal with the number of fishing licences and whether they would be lowered, maintained or increased, Fiji Times reports.
Officials will make a decision after the final consultation next month when a paper is promulgated by the Forum Fisheries Agency.
“We're taking into consideration all interests. We represent the people and need to be mindful of things like jobs. A lot of people could be affected, some may be jobless, so we'll consider the economic and social impact as well,” he stated.
“We have to make it sustainable and viable for everyone to carry on,” Naqali added.
A recent report by the Forum Fisheries Agency and Secretariat of the Pacific Community underscored certain findings, such as the licensing of vessels, which would help Fiji manage its fishery. Fiji would thus have to reduce its licensed fishing vessels by 16.
The Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association will keep reaching out to the government to fight issues affecting the struggling fisheries industry, as it believes it does not need to be subsidised, association member Grahame Southwick said.
“Subsidies are not sound business, nor practical, but an answer to this problem must be found if Fiji's domestic fleet is to exist,” he said.
The comment followed talks with key players and stakeholders of the industry. The consultation took place after a bioeconomic analysis update on Fiji's Tuna Management Development Plan contained in a joint finding of the Forum Fisheries Agency and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
Southwick said the Fiji fisheries industry had 66 operating boats, of which 50 per cent or 33 were fully owned and operated by Association members.
“The rest are charter boats, very loosely connected to Fiji companies and not really committed to the long term sustainability of Fiji fishery,” Southwick said. “On this basis, we the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association differentiate ourselves from others as being the real representatives of the Fiji industry as we own the boats and are committed to the long-term sustainability of the Fiji industry and work closely with Fisheries (Department) to ensure this.”
By Natalia Real