The UFDF said today that the suggestion by Minister for Fisheries, Forests & Agriculture Lt Col Inia Seruiratu that another committee be set up to ‘look into’ the plight of Fiji’s Fishing Industry’ is too little too late given that this problem has been allowed to escalate over the past 7 years to the point that more than 8,000 citizen’s incomes will now be adversely affected.
And who might the members of this committee be? The same officials that have been unable to resolve the issue over the past 7 years and they will advise the Minister how he can resolve an issue they have failed to address in 7 years? Have any of the stake holders been asked for their opinions and input? A quick check yesterday revealed they have not been asked to be part of this Ministerial solution.
The UFDF said while courting China into funding its various projects [all loans no aid] the regime has ignored the fundamental problem that has caused this matter to ‘come to a head’ and that is the ongoing presence of 1,800 or so foreign fishing vessels with licenses issued by our island neighbors. A significant number of these vessels mainly from China operate in international waters surrounding Fiji and other Pacific Islands.
The UFDF said one does not have to be a ‘rocket scientist’ to work out how long our fish will depleted when 1,800 foreign fishing vessels are catching our resources in our back yard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Not to mention the damage done to our reefs, our sea life by the trawlers. The loss of other types of seafood that get caught in the process as well as the waste and debris from these vessels.
The UFDF said what makes it even more ridiculous is that these foreign vessels are subsidized by up to $US350, 000 $F662, 000 per vessel to cover costs, fuel, maintenance and they are the only vessels that can sell to China, our Fiji owned and operated vessels cannot sell their catch to China and not one of them are subsidized.
The UFDF say some of the blue painted Chinese subsidized vessels anchored in Suva Harbour can’t afford to operate even with their $F662, 000 subsidies it’s not too difficult to work out why our local boat operators are unable to sustain their operations.
The UFDF says it understands that a major scam is being perpetrated by foreign vessel operators against the Chinese government where operators are falsifying documents and logs of their catch to qualify for the generous subsidy, while remaining anchored. At least 20 officials are reported to have been executed in China for the scam.
The UFDF said none of the foreign vessels are known to hire local crew but if they did it was a minute number, so other than a license fee, there are no real benefits to the Island nations and the areas valuable fishing recourses is being depleted on a scale that will cause catastrophic failure because of the issuance of an excess of fishing licenses by upwards of 400%.
This the UFDF says is despite well researched and sustainable numbers of fishing licenses recommended to all island nations. The recommendations on limiting the issuance of licenses are being ignored for short term financial gain without any regard for the catastrophic long term consequences that will follow the current excesses in fishing of our resources.
The UFDF said the other part of the problem is the local mismanagement of the resource. In Fiji too many licenses have been issued and the resources’ have been depleted.
The problem has nothing to do with migratory fish or seasons it’s all to do with the mismanagement of resources.
The UFDF said the MSG has failed to adequately and prudently address this issue for the long term sustainable benefit of all the island nations and the current discord among the members over the West Papua issue will unlikely allow them to urgently resolve this major economic catastrophe currently unfolding in the region.
Read Michael Field:
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Fishy proposal: UFDF says Ministry's plan to set up another committee to look into dismal plight of fishing industry too late. Chinese overfishing around Fiji waters to be blamed for loss of jobs
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