Let Us Not Ignore Our Ocean, EEZ’

Minister for Fisheries, Semi Koroilvesau spoke to more than 50 Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) personnel at the RFMF Training Centre in Vatuwaqa over the weekend on Fiji’s Exclusive
19 Jun 2017 10:00
Let Us Not Ignore Our Ocean, EEZ’
Minister for Fisheries, Semi Koroilavesau speaks to senior officers of the RFMF over the weekend on Fiji’s EEZ and its challenges. Photo: Ministry of Fisheries

Minister for Fisheries, Semi Koroilvesau spoke to more than 50 Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) personnel at the RFMF Training Centre in Vatuwaqa over the weekend on Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and its challenges.

“Ideally, this topic should of concern to every Fijian as it is this important geographical feature that has given us the greater bounds within which we have derived great values and services from,” Mr Koroilavesau said.

“Fiji, like any other island state, is surrounded by the ocean, most of which is Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“Fiji is an archipelagic state as given greater recognition out of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which is the ‘Constitution of our Oceans’.

“From the time of our ancestors till today, our ocean has been the lifeblood of our people through various services and means such as transportation, food, and commerce.”

Mr Koroilavesau said within the EEZ, Fiji as a coastal state has the right to exploit and regulate fisheries activities and undertake research that may include the installation of scientific equipment.

“Additionally, Fiji has the sovereign right in the EEZ to use the zone for other economic purposes. These include the generation of energy from waves and regulate scientific research by foreign vessels. Otherwise, foreign vessels (and aircraft) are allowed to move freely in the form of innocent passage through (and over) the zone, but subject to certain restrictions.”

It is easily discernible that the vast expanse of ocean territory would bring with it a number of challenges in relation to its effective Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS).

For Fisheries Management, effective MCS operations continue to be a challenge. The lack of near real-time navigational data, surveillance assets and support craft and finance is a continuing problem.

Mr Korilavesau added that to improve MCS, particularly Surveillance, the Ministry of Fisheries has always worked closely with the Navy. The sharing of surface assets to conduct surface patrol has greatly benefited us in our role of policing Fiji’s vast EEZ.

Fiji also engages through sub-regional approaches, like Operation Kurukuru, in order to beef up national surveillance operations, done so through collaboration.

“Our collaboration has also included the likes of Australia and New Zealand, France and the US, with their assistance in providing certain operational assets like vessels and aircraft. Although much work remains to be done, these aided means have allowed us to greatly tighten the gaps in our MCS efforts over our EEZ.”

Nonetheless, Fiji has cutting edge national fisheries laws – the Offshore Fisheries Management Decree 2012, and the Offshore Fisheries Management Regulations 2014 – which provide the basis for effective regulatory actions over such activities.

“Through regulation, all fishing vessels – whether foreign or domestic – are required to comply with strict zone-entry and zone-exit notification requirements. Such notifications assist in the monitoring and appropriate assessment of vessel movements.”

Mr Koroilavesau said such measures are further supplemented by Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) which essentially a tracking tool for fishing vessels that the Ministry’s and Navy’s surveillance officers can monitor near real-time and make calculated assessments of any particular vessels depending on their movement signatures or patterns. This is both a surveillance as well as a management tool as it allows officers to monitor the regular areas of vessels’ activities over any given time period.

“Fisheries crime is a growing threat. As fisheries managers, we manage people not fish. So it is out of sense and care that we should be extending our work to broader law enforcement issues like human and drug trafficking, and money laundering, that is somehow running rampant on fishing vessels and its shore operations.

“The Ministry of Fisheries has spearheaded this through the development of an independent Investigation Unit. The unit works closely with other line agencies such as the Fiji Intelligence Unit, Interpol through Fiji’s NCD Office, Customs, Immigration and the Ministry of Defense. There is room for greater collaboration and setting the right national approach to such issues. This includes knowing where to look and how to look, and so includes things like forensic accounting.

“Fisheries issues are part of national security issues as long as fisheries continues to exist.

“No man is an island. We are all linked by the ocean surrounding us. Only our imagination will limit our thoughts regarding all the problems that humans can bring to the ocean. Fisheries and trans-national crime is but one of the many, but one too important to ignore.

Let us never ignore and let us ensure that we collaborate with each other to ensure that we sustain our resources for the sake of the Fijian people and the future generations, and for perpetual solidarity.”



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