Tuna catch. (Photo Credit: Terje Engoe/Copyright: FIS)
Tuna industry on the brink of collapse, companies warn
Wednesday, January 22, 2014, 02:00 (GMT + 9)
A massive decline in tuna catches in the last few years is making Fiji tuna industry no longer sustainable.
Minister for Fisheries and Forests Lieutenant Colonel Inia Seruiratu said the government is looking at ways on how issues can be resolved in Fiji’s tuna industry.
However, the situation has forced Fiji Fish Marketing Group Limited to cease operations and subsequently lay off around 120 employees, and about 8,000 people are expected to be affected by the shutdown.
"The catch rate in the Fiji zone has dropped from 200 albacore a day five-six years ago, steadily declined to 80, 50 and today averages 15-20 a day per boat," the company’s chief executive, Grahame Southwick, explained.
Meanwhile, another firm, Solander Pacific Limited has recently dismissed 20 per cent of its 400 workers.
Lower catches led to tie up more than half of its fleet and leave only six operational vessels. In addition, it has lost two of its fishing licenses.
Solander Pacific's general manager, Radhika Kumar said the firm is the only company that has all their fishing boats on the EU approved list.
"It's a very stringent list of things that you have to consider and upgrade your vessel to get to the EU standard and we shouldn't have received the cut," he said.
Notwithstanding, industry sources say Fiji's tuna fishing industry is on the brink of collapse due to Chinese overfishing, Fairfax NZ News reported.
These situation comes after warnings last year over the way China has sent sophisticated and highly subsidised fishing boats to the South Pacific in a bid to neutralize domestic fleets and seize control of the longline tuna fishery.
“They are not subject to the stringent surveys and manning regulations of Fiji domestic vessels, nor to the taxes and levies and foreign exchange regulations imposed on Fiji vessels," Southwick explained.
If governments do not intervene in this issue supporting Pacific Island fisheries, the prospect for the survival of domestic non-Chinese-flagged vessels in the western and central Pacific is extremely challenging, a paper by Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency warned.