DIRECTOR of Fisheries Edward Honiwala says the arrest of Dr Reginald Aipia and his American friend was done over alleged breaches of fisheries laws.
Aipia and his friend were brought over from Ontong Java into Honiara last week on Wednesday night.
Mr Honiwala said Aipia did not have any proper permits with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) to carry out farming of beche-de-mer, therefore they see his activities as illegal.
He added the so-called farming was just a move to cover up for Aipia’s illegal harvesting of sea cucumber during the period of ban.
He said the ministry did not see what he did as farming because Aipia and his friend went two months ago to start the aquaculture project and came out after one month to say the result is successful.
“This is very early to say the farming is successful,” Mr Honiwala stated.
He said according to the findings of the MFMR, Aipia and his friend only erected a fence and loaded all the different species of beche-de-mer inside, which in the ministry’s view, is just harvesting, not farming.
He said if they are doing farming, there should be a control environment where they can carry out their work to see how beche-de-mer breed, and thus a tank could have been used to easily assess and monitor their work on hatchery of sea cucumber.
But in this case nothing was seen in their activities, except for an erected fence which they used to gather all beche-de-mer their boys brought from other places.
“This is not farming but illegal harvesting of beche-de-mers.
“The case is under police investigation so more on this will come out later,” Mr Honiwala said.
However, the young American scientist who visited the Solomon Star yesterday said what the ministry did is very disappointing, arguing that he was expecting the ministry to cooperate and work with them in their farming project but instead, they brought police to arrest them.
He said he and Aipia are not interested in the illegal harvesting of beche-de-mer as their focus and priority is on their farming project, to see how they could help the country become successful in replenishing the declining state of sea cucumber.
“Our work was misunderstood and we were victims of someone’s greed to destroy the good work we have done to help Solomon Islands to sustainably manage one of its endangered marine species.”
By AATAI JOHN