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Ministry: Can’t Lift Ban On Grouper Fish

Ministry: Can’t Lift Ban On Grouper Fish
July 11
11:00 2018

The ban placed on the harvesting of marine resources was based on proven research and surveys carried out by specialists.

The Ministry of Fisheries says it does not have the powers to lift a ban on the harvesting and sale of 27 species of grouper fish in Vanua Levu waters.

The ministry’s response came in the wake of representations made to Prime Minister Voreqe Bainima­rama during his recent tour of the Northern Division.

Fishers who met the Prime Minis­ter at Galoa Island in Bua said the ban affected their source of income and their ability to feed their fami­lies.

Fisheries officer Epeli Tawake said the ban placed on the harvest­ing of marine resources was based on proven research and surveys carried out by specialists.

Fishermen told Mr Bainimarama that they were not aware about the ban on the 27 species, except for donu and kawakawa.

Asesela Tuvoli said his family de­pended on fish for their source of income, but with the ban in place fishermen and their families were affected.

“We have our boats to pay, hire-purchase payments to take care of, bills to pay for and the ban on the 27 species will affect our business now,” Mr Tuvoli said.

“How will we make our living and pay for our bills and look after our families if 27 species are banned from being sold in markets.

“We depend on fish for our income and to take care of our families, but fishermen will be affected now.”

Mosese Tuvilau claimed that even though the ban on 27 species group­er was still in place, there were villagers on Vanua Levu that were still consuming them.

“The ministry needs to clarify if the bans were still in place,” Mr Tu­vilau said.

“We are aware of people harvest­ing fish illegally and selling it to middlemen, but nothing has been done to address this issue.

“The ministry needs to come out clear on this.

“We use fish for basic purposes; we have an agreement with Gov­ernment that it can be only har­vested to serve these purposes,” he said.

Mr Tawake said that once these fish stocks were overfished, the potential for recovery of these groupers in Fiji would be severely compromised, since aggregations are the only places that they can reproduce.

“Because of their high demand, these species are extremely over­fished and need direct management interventions in place to avoid ex­ploitation to a chronic level of de­pletion,” he said.

“The public notice issued to this effect is very clear in specifying that there is a ban on fishing, col­lection, sales and export of all spe­cies of grouper and coral trout.

“And this was done to avoid any confusion or ambiguity around some species being banned and oth­ers not.

“There are other means of liv­ing rather than kawakawa and donu. Farming is another source of income, man cannot live by kawakawa and donu alone

“Findings from research clearly showed that where aggregations had been heavily targeted, particu­larly reefs closer to fishing commu­nities, landings have declined.

“One such example is the Mali Passage in Macuata, Vanua Levu, which is located about 15 minutes by boat from Labasa Town where a survey was conducted in 2005, clearly indicating the declining catch in the passage.

“The follow-up survey conducted in 2015 clearly confirmed that the Mali Passage was nonfunctional and the site is dead, aggregations no longer form in this passage, due to uncontrolled fishing,” he added.

Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback: nacanieli.tuilevuka@fijisun.com.fj

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