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Coral Workers Back at Work

Coral Workers Back at Work
Some of the employees of Walt Smith International at work on January 12, 2018. Photo: Charles Chambers
January 13
11:38 2018

But the joy of returning to work may be short-lived as the workload they are engaged in will be completed on January 19. The future hinges on on-going talks with the Ministry of Fisheries

More than 60 workers at a Lautoka company which exports live coral and rock have returned to work after being told they were being laid off because of the ban that prohibits the export of coral.

The workers are believed to have been told that their work is only up to January 19 until the matter is sorted out fully by their employer and the Ministry of Fisheries.

The ban came into place on December 28 last year.

The workers, all part of Walt Smith International, were told by the Livestock and Aquaculture Manager David Barrick on January 2 that the work stoppage was something which the company could not avoid.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Barrick was ready to meet with officials of the Ministry of Fisheries in Suva over the issue.

“Our business is a lot more about coral and rock export but the coral and rock export is what supports our coral farming and our man-made rock.  Without that we can’t stand alone,” Mr Barrick had said on the day the workers were sent home.

With the company’s expertise, some dead reefs have been revived and in the past two years a quarter of the company’s income had gone directly to the villagers in Navutu, Druadrua and parts of the Yasawas to support the coral farming with villagers being paid directly for the boat hires and other work on the reefs.

Mr Barrick said yesterday he would not be able to comment as he was about to enter into talks with the ministry.

The workers were called back after the ministry lifted the ban so exports that were ready could be sold.

The workers, without mentioning names, said they were happy to be back at work.

The Ministry of Fisheries has banned all harvesting, purchasing, sales and export of live coral and aquarium rock (also known as live rock, coral rock or fossil coral.

Edited by Percy Kean



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