Caught In The Net

A joint overnight operation involving the Police and traditional fishing ground owners netted some success. Two fishermen were arrested early yesterday morning by Police during the operation. The operation is
25 Sep 2016 09:33
Caught In The Net
A Police officer (right), with fishers Bijen Prasad (left), and George Scott early yesterday morning during the operation. Photo: Selita Bolanavanua

A joint overnight operation involving the Police and traditional fishing ground owners netted some success.

Two fishermen were arrested early yesterday morning by Police during the operation. The operation is part of efforts to address the increasing number of poachers in the iqoliqoli areas from Verata, Bau, right up to Dawasamu.

The operation involved the Vanua of Bau, Leleuvia Island Resort and the divisional monitoring controlling and surveillance unit of the Police.

Ratu Epenisa Cakobau led the Vanua of Bau in the operation. A Fiji Sun team was also part of the operation.

The two men arrested were Bijen Prasad, 48, of Nasole and George Scott, 56, of Burerua, Tailevu. They were arrested because they did not have proper documents.

The pair said they had been fishing around the Moturiki and Kubuna iqoliqoli areas for a few months now and at times had spent weeks fishing around those areas.

“We started fishing today at around 11am and after a few hours our boss, the licence owner got a sudden mild stroke and was rushed to the hospital,” Mr Scott said.

Anil Singh of Nakasi, the licensee holder, was not on board the fishing vessel when Police confronted the pair early yesterday morning.

According to the Inside Demarcated Areas (IDA) Licence Conditions, “the Licensee shall at all times master his fishing vessel and be in the possession of licence.”

Since Mr Singh was not on board, the fishing vessel was confiscated along with their catch.

The two men were taken to the Nausori Police Station for questioning. They are expected to appear in court next week.

Mr Scott who has been fishing since 1977, was clearly distraught.

“I have a wife and two granddaughters and this is my major source of income. I don’t know what I will tell my family if I go home now. What’s happening now, I don’t know how I’ll go about it. I started fishing in Labasa and to be honest with you I don’t know what to say. What will I tell people at home since what I want to take home is now taken from me?”

The joint operation team also found a net in the boat which the fishermen use to catch bait. The licence that belongs to Mr Singh is a fishing licence and not for netting.

The joint operation team also captured two illegal operators in the Kubuna and Suva fishing grounds in recent days. Police are also investigating.


Ratu Epenisa leads charge

Ratu Epenisa Cakobau, leader of the Kubuna fishing ground, was part of the joint operation team




Fishing grounds as well.

It was the first time he’s ever been involved in such a programme. He was thankful to the Ministry of Fisheries and the Fiji Police Force for such a programme because they have seen fast recoveries from their fishing grounds.

“We have taboos in certain areas of our iqoliqoli sites and we’ve seen there’s good recovery for our fishing grounds,” Ratu Epenisa said.

“In 2011 to 2012 we got about a thousand 20-litre yellow drums with lines and weights with reflectors to mark our taboo areas from Bau Island to Leleuvia Island and two weeks later we saw fishermen in Nausori with the same yellow drums with taboo written on it and it hurts to see that the villagers are respecting the taboo, while the fishermen from other places are just coming and fishing illegally.

“The Vanua of Bau‘s main source of income and food is their fishing grounds and they are trying really hard to protect it for the next generation.”


Leleuvia Island Resort

Illegal fishing is also a major concern in the Leleuvia Island Resort.

“We’ve had taboo for four years now started by Ratu Epenisa Cakobau, and the taboo is really important for the resort,” said resort general manager Colin Philip.

“After four years of taboo Leleuvia now has beautiful snorkeling again.

“It’s also good for the locals, people of Moturiki because it is now a breeding ground for fish stocks overflow into Moturiki waters which is very good for the community.”

Leleuvia Resort is a 35-minute speed boat ride away from the Central Eastern coastline of Viti Levu.

“The taboo is not only benefiting the resort but also the fishing ground is being protected for the future. I think marine protected within locally managed areas is something that’s not been made important enough. A lot of policy makers and Government decisions are about Tuna stocks and High Seas Governments but there’s not enough work with partnership entities like resorts and now Ministry of Fisheries working together, Ministry doesn’t always have the resources so we do a lot of the placing ourselves even when there’s no fisheries officers around,” he said.

“Leleuvia had seen the benefits of the taboo with the amount of fish and the number of species now visible on shore and right under the jetty, this has really allowed the marine life to recover from the damage done by the cyclones.”

Mr Philip is thankful that a joint operation team is now operating and working together in protecting our marine life.


Edited by Naisa Koroi


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