NATION

Fish Stock Threat Because Of COVID-19, Says Scientist

This is the view of scientist, Brian Stockwell, a University of the South Pacific, School of Marine Studies Research Fellow.
05 Jun 2020 11:35
Fish Stock Threat Because Of COVID-19, Says Scientist
Men on their boats out at sea.

Fijians could risk the danger of depleting valuable fish stocks as fishing has increased, especially within the reefs following COVID-19.

This is the view of scientist, Brian Stockwell, a University of the South Pacific, School of Marine Studies Research Fellow.

Mr Stockwell said that some species more than others could be affected as a possible decision not to impose the kawakawa and donu (ban looms.

Research conducted by the university showed an increase in the number of people fishing, most of it brought about by job losses.

Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau presented a paper to Cabinet last week seeking its consideration to lift the ban.

The ban was placed to stop fishing, transport and trade of kawakawa and donu during the peak spawning months, June through September.

Mr Koroilavesau said the consideration to lift the ban on these species was because of the pressure Fijians were going through in terms of food supply and unemployment amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Mr Stockwell said now more than ever Fijians really needed to be more aware of marine conservation and protecting the nearshore because as it was such an important food source.

“Although tuna and all these off-shore fisheries make a lot of money for Fiji and help with the income but when it comes to feeding the people it’s the nearshore, it’s the reef fish,” Mr Stockwell said.

“And that is what we really need to protect and so this is a time we need to be very aware of the nearshore because once we lose that from overfishing and catching undersized fishes fish stocks is likely to deplete in years to come.”

He said while he fully understood the problem many Fijians were going through amid the crisis it was important that everyone catches the right amount.

“Don’t be wasteful, be aware of the size, nothing too small or nothing too large to take home.

“We are aware that with COVID-19 and job losses there is more strain on the near shore reefs and we need to be extra vigilant.

“And to lift the ban during this time will be another threat.”

KAWAKAWA AND DONU

He said the Kawakawa and Donu were a very important group of fish to protect. The species were slow to reproduce, and took three to five years to become fertile.

“They are much more sensitive, easily caught and you can remove the brood stock or the breeders and it is so much easier to remove these breeders that are important.

“It takes a long time to recover and because it takes decades for their recovery process to occur it’s just been initiated to and to stop it at this point would be way too early you would lose the momentum of this conservation effort.

“Let’s say we lift this ban tomorrow after three years of this ban it will only take a couple of weeks of intensive fishing to erase and destroy all the conservation efforts and protection that they put into effect.

“Let’s think in the long term, it is important we keep the ban.”

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra

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