Unloading tuna at Suva, Fiji. (Photo: ffa.int)
Tuna tax is harming industry
Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 23:20 (GMT + 9)
The Fiji Tuna Association of Stakeholders believes the reintroduction of a fish levy tax has tainted the country’s international reputation and incited foreign boats to leave Fiji’s shores.
The association, which represents the interest of service providers to the tuna industry, said the levy of USD 350 per tonne imposed in June last year on foreign fish exported directly from Fiji has led to job losses for locals.
Spokesperson John Lee said the tax was applied without having consulted with service providers.
"The fish is caught outside Fiji's waters and is considered foreign," he said, Fiji Times reports.
The government's effort to help the industry failed to take into account the deleterious economic effect the levy would have on service providers.
"Imposing tax on trans-shipment of cargo or fish on an international port is in breach of World Customs Organisation and World Trade Organisation (WTO), of which Fiji's Customs Authority and the government are party. The alternate way this levy could be imposed is through an affordable service fee as mentioned in the budget on the Fisheries segment," Lee continued.
Most fishing boat owners, he noted, were now seeking other countries with which to conduct trans-shipment. Some businesses have had to deal with this shift by laying off workers, he explained.
Grahame Southwick, Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association spokesperson, said the fisheries authority two years ago started to let foreign fishing vessels based in Fiji to export without the use of Fiji’s processing plants.
"This allowed them to come to the Kings Wharf, and using their own crew, unload the fish directly into containers and ship it out. This meant no fish for all the Fiji processors, and Pacific American Fish Company, Inc (PAFCO) was reduced to three-day weeks, the five Suva processors had empty factories and staff members were laid off,” he said.
His association supports the expansion of the Fiji fleet beyond the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), although Southwick specified that it must be carried out by way of arrangements with neighbouring states or on the high seas – and the expansion arrangements must be for Fiji boats.
Meanwhile, the Fisheries Department has informed that Fiji is evaluating how to lower the number of chartered fishing vessels because “partners” may offer the service at lower costs.
The Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association has already voiced its concern about the number of licences granted to operators as well as about overfishing, and there have been recent consultations among stakeholders and key players of the fisheries sector over the Tuna Management Development Plan.
- Tuna management plan under review
By Natalia Real