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Editorial: Fiji Boosts Fight Against Illegal Fishing

Editorial: Fiji Boosts Fight Against Illegal Fishing
July 18
10:50 2018

Fiji has agreed to sign the Port State Measures, a United Nations Treaty and administered by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, aimed at stamping out illegal fishing.

Fiji will now be able to take measures in detecting illegal fishing, stopping illegally caught fish being offloaded and sold and share information of illegal fishing vessels worldwide.

Under the Treaty, foreign fishing vessels would need permission to enter Fiji’s ports and provide full information on the fish they had onboard.

Also information on the entire crew will have to be recorded.

Fiji, with its 300 plus islands, have a total land area of 18,272 square kilometres and is surrounding by the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is around 1.3 million square kilometres of ocean.

That is a massive area that has been covered by Fiji’s Naval Squadron for many years now, but the size of the EEZ makes the work a mammoth task.

At times, our bigger Pacific neighbours, New Zealand and Australia have offered their assistance in this area of work and have detected illegal fishing vessels in Fijian waters.

It also reveals that such illegal vessels, in their run-down state and lack of navigational and required equipment onboard, dared to take risks to carry out their selfish work.

In one such incident, the Fiji Sun reported on June 28, 2016, that two unidentified ‘dark targets’ were found in Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone by the New Zealand offshore patrol boat, HMNZS Otago.

According to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Chinese-flagged long-liners did not have automatic location transponders.

These are required equipment by the FFA and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission — the first rule for fishing in Pacific waters, as it allows for tracking and remote monitoring of location and activity by Pacific maritime officials, and the FFA’s Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC).

The find came after Operation Tui Moana/Islands Chief for 2016 (OPTMIC16), a 10-day regional surveillance operation.

The surveillance involved full or partial participation from all 17 Forum Fisheries Agency member nations, as well as the Defence Force assets of the ‘Quads’ – Australia, France, New Zealand, and the United States.

FFA director general James Movick at that time gave credit to the active participation and communications support by Pacific nations working across the 30 million square kilometres of ocean covered by OPTMIC16.

Signing the treaty would strengthen Fiji and the region’s fight against these illegal vessels from visiting vulnerable nations with small administrations as the shared information that would be in place would keep a tab of the vessels, crew and their illegal activities.

However more importantly are the measures to detect illegal fishing vessels which call into our ports.

This would in some way make up for the massive area of the EEZ, which cannot be patrolled in one sweeping move.

Harsh penalties need to be dished out to these illegal operators so that it sends a clear message to those who are contemplating carrying out similar activities.

Assistance from the outer islands also needs to be beefed up, with some compensation given to villagers to carry out some surveillance work of their own.

The time has never been better for our fish stocks to be protected from these unscrupulous poachers.

Fiji will be the sixth member of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency to sign up.

Feedback:  charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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