Ontong Javans livelihood snatched again
By ANDREW FANASIA
BECH-DE-MER valued at over $500,000 was confiscated in the early morning hours of yesterday at the Honiara wharf by officers from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
This paper was tipped by a lawyer on Tuesday night that MV Onogou arrived from the marine rich atoll with loads of illegally harvested Bech-de-mer only to be welcomed by officers from the ministry of fisheries and the police.
Asked how the officers from the ministry knew about the shipment, the lawyer said that they received information from their sources in Ontong Java.
This paper was told that the confiscated bech-de-mers were packed in pillow cases, bags, suitcases, and in empty cartons.
This paper understands that Ontong Java is one of the atolls in the country that will be severely affected by climate change and Bech-de-mer is a means of obtaining their needs and wants and their livelihoods in general.
With the global COVID-19 pandemic currently impacting the country’s economy and climate change having its toll on the atoll community, the only means of survival now is Bech-de-mer.
When the Ministry of Fisheries was contacted yesterday to confirm the confiscation of hundreds of kilograms of bech-de-mer on Tuesday night, an officer affirmed that the ministry had taken the action done in accordance with the relevant fisheries laws of the country.
The officer who spoke to this paper said that because of the ban on harvesting bech-de-mer, the ministry and police were obligated to enforce the law.
“Illegal harvesting of the bech-de-mer is a crime,” said the officer.
An elderly man from Ontong Java who also spoke to this paper in anonymity last night said that this was a slap on the face of his people.
“We are caught up in a desperate dilemma, first with the ongoing impacts of climate change and now COVID-19 is further compounding the situation on the atolls.
“Can the government and responsible ministry show some leniency towards our people and allow them to sell their bech-de-mer.
“We do not have plantations and enough land to plant food crops.
“All depend on for survival is our marine resources and bech-de-mer is our lifeline at this point in time,” the elder told this paper last night.
It was understood that the Bech-de-mer ban was effective as of May 31, 2019 and is currently in force.
The ban covers harvesting, possession, and selling of bech-de-mer species.