Time pleads with authorities to up fisheries laws’ enforcement

Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries followed through with its plans to conditionally lift the ban on the harvest and trade of beche-de-mer to assist resource owners financially, however, conservationist and son of Kavewa village chief Emosi Time insists it is still too early.

Widely known as Dau ni Vonu or Turtle Monitor for his work in the care of turtles that come to nest in two turtle sanctuaries located about a few minutes boat ride from Kavewa island, Time has seen firsthand the depletion of marine resources within their traditional fishing grounds and hopes that the sea cucumbers will not suffer the same fate as a result of the lifting of the ban for three months effective last Friday, 1 July.

“In Fiji, we are only into the fifth year of the ban,” Time told members of the Fijian media during a cChange FishSmart Awareness outreach to islands on the coast of Macuata. “I believe that we should not have lifted the ban because they have not recovered fully.”

Uplifted for the first time in five years, until 31 October, the harvesting period is restricted to the first two months and the remaining month allows approved buyers of the beche-de-mer to sell off all their stock.

Preceding the lifting of the ban, the ministry issued a public notice that stipulated six conditions as part of efforts to ensure the harvesting and trading of sea cucumbers over the three months are managed sustainably, including that the harvest and trade of ‘blackteat fish’ and ‘white teatfish’ species are prohibited, and that only registered and licensed iTaukei can carry out the harvesting of the seafood delicacy.

Acknowledging the decision by authorities to lift the ban still, Time hopes they will enforce the conditions set, and in general all laws that govern fishing or fisheries-related activities in the country to ensure a balance between allowing traditional fishing owners to benefit from their marine resources whilst allowing them to survive and thrive.

“As it is, we are no longer seeing the quality sizes and quantity of fish that we used to have in our qoliqoli. Now, we have had to venture further out to sea to fish. It is good that the Fisheries Ministry enacts practices that help preserve the health of our fisheries like the ban on the kawakawa and donu, but what is lacking is the enforcement of these laws. I have not seen or heard of anyone being penalised or brought to task for breaking fisheries laws. We have had numerous awareness sessions done about these laws and the bans in place, and considering the global reach of the media, we expect people to be informed. We need to start penalising people who break these laws, only then can we be sure that all these protective measures to protect our fisheries will benefit us.

Conditions for the Lifting of the Ban on Then Harvest and Trade of Beche-de-mer

Harvesting period: Runs from 1 July 2022 to 31 August 2022

License: Any persons who wishes to kill, take, land, sell or offer or expose for sale, deal in, transport, receive or possess holothurian (beche-de-mer) or sea cucumbers must obtain a licence to take fish in Fiji fisheries waters issued by a licensing officer under the Fisheries Act 1941. Any application to obtain a Licence must go through the process of obtaining a Licence under the Act.

Permitted methods of harvesting or collection – Free Dive, and gleaning only. License to collect or harvest sea cucumbers will only be issued to an iTaukei person who has applied and is registered by the iTaukei Fisheries Commission in the Register of iTaukei Customary Fishing Rights as part of the Government’s ongoing measures to encourage the active and meaningful participation of resource or qoliqoli owners in our sustainable management approach.

Landing: All bechedemer or sea cucumbers harvested or collected must be landed at a landing site as determined by the Ministry of Fisheries.

Processing and export period: The processing and export period runs from 1 July 2022 to 31 October 2022. All exports will cease after 31 October.

The ban on the harvest and trade of beche-de-mer was imposed in 2017 by the ministry because of overharvesting of the seafood delicacy.

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