There are simply too many ships fishing within Fiji waters for too little tuna stocks.
This was the message Radhika Kumar, a representative of the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association who was a panelist at last week’s public lecture on Fiji’s tuna industry.
Kumar, who is also the general manager of Solander Pacific Limited, said the association would like to see more action taken to create a more even field for locally-owned vessels and those which were highly-subsidised.
“The fundamental problem is that there are too many boats chasing too little fish and that situation is getting worse despite the warning form the science community,” Mrs Kumar said.
“These vessels are very heavily-subsidised, so every day we go to sea, the vessel alongside us are getting as much as $US1000 ($F1884) a day in fuel subsidy alone.”
She said while the association welcomed initiatives by the Fiji Government to help ease the strain on locally-owned vessels, more was needed to be done.
“The Fiji vessel is totally unsubsidised and to ease our situation in Fiji, the government has reduced the licences. But as you are all aware, tuna is a very highly migratory species, so Fiji should now go to our neighbouring countries such as Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tuvalu and ask them to do the same.”
Meanwhile, this is the time to begin bettering fisheries management — before it becomes more than an economic problem.
This was the sentiment of panelist Bubba Cook at a public lecture earlier this week at USP’s Marine Campus.
Cook, who represented the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on the panel, said it was a “luxury” that at present the tuna issue was an economic one and not a biological one, and that a combined regional effort was paramount.
“We’re in a situation where we have issues with increased capacity in the region and we’re figuring out ways to deal with that increased capacity and it basically boils down to political will,” Cook said.
“Fiji has shown that political will by reducing the licence numbers here in Fiji’s waters. But reducing it by five or 10, while it’s positive and it’s great we also have to consider the fact that there are over 3000 vessels fishing in this region.”
He said a regional effort to insist that the Western and Central Pacific Fishing Commission (WCPFC) tackle the problem now was necessary.
“And that’s going to take everyone at this table and everyone in this room lobbying the appropriate people to make that happen because it’s not going to happen otherwise. It’s going to take the collective will of the people in this region and the people behind this table to push the WCPFC to take this issue further instead of ignoring it at the WCPFC meetings like it has for the last two years.”…
SUVA, (FIJI TIMES)