Delay in buying, exporting of beche-de-mer worries locals


A FISHERMAN from Central is concerned at further delay by National Fisheries Authority to open fishing, buying and exporting of beche-de-mer (sea cucumber).
Goata Taumaku, from Porebada village in Central, said notice by NFA to defer the opening of the fishery to next month was “disappointing”.
He said fishermen like himself had spent the past weeks collecting, boiling and drying their catch to sell this month.
An earlier paid advertisement by the NFA indicated July 1 as date for beche-de-mer to be opened.
However, according to a subsequent advertisement, opening had been moved back as NFA was conducting training for fishers and buyers this month in the four regions.
According to NFA, the training was aimed at those involved in processing sea cucumber to produce best quality beche-de-mer products.
“Another one month is too long delay and our beche-de-mer will be bad,” Taumaku said.
Meanwhile, Milne Bay deputy-governor and Kiriwina local-level government president Tom Cameron hoped the extension of sea cucumber harvest season to Aug 1 would be the last.
Following frustrations from people in his LLG, Cameron said: “It has been extended to the Aug 1 and the LLG elections will be next month as well.
“The delay is not done at the provincial or district levels. It is done at the national level and we cannot do anything but just be patient.”
Cameron said many people from outer Milne Bay islands benefitted from harvest of sea cucumbers and the ongoing extension was not helping.
Last year the country earned K50 million from beche-de-mer exports, according to the NFA.
About 500,000 people from coastal and island communities are involved in this enterprise.
The short harvesting period and the high fetching prices have seen depletion of the sea creatures in the country’s maritime provinces.
Depleted stock and overfishing caused NFA to place a ban on the beche-de-mer fishery in 2010.
After lifting the ban, it introduced a total allowable catch (TAC) limit for each province to allow for better monitoring and management of the fishery.
The NFA has been monitoring recovery of the sea cucumber population through provincial annual stock assessments.
It has established an information system and trained and placed compliance monitors in all provinces.
The information system involves the collection of data from buyers and exporters on a weekly basis.
The fishery is managed using a minimum-size limit.
Each maritime province is allocated a TAC to control how much sea cucumber can be harvested from their area, based on the harvestable sizes present in the waters and reefs of each province.
In order for the beche-de-mer fishery to be open every year, 30 percent of estimated harvestable bio-mass is allowed to be harvested and that forms the TAC for the province.
Per province, the TAC is Milne Bay 118 tonnes, Central 58, Manus 53, New Ireland 43, Bougainville 28, West New Britain 15, Northern 15, Morobe 9, Western 7, New Britain 7, Madang 5, East Sepik and West Sepik 2. Size limits have been set for 30 species of sea cucumbers.

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