Lift ban on sea cucumbers, say islanders

National, Normal

The National – Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ILLEGAL harvest of sea cucumbers in Moukele village in the Fisherman Island outside Port Moresby has reached its peak and villagers are now calling on the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) to seriously intervene and take care of the situation by lifting the ban in place since 2009.
Moukele development committee representatives Moale Vagi, Manu Iga and Kei Melo Gima said their “sea gold” was being raided by nearby coastal villagers and it was about time the ban was lifted and not wait until 2013.
As a form of management control, the NFA put a stop to the Moukele villages from collecting and harvesting sea cucumbers for three years.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case and Moukele villagers are frustrated that NFA has not responded to their letter.
Vagi claimed NFA had done very little surveillance in the area as their shores were emptied day and night by other nearby villages.
“NFA has been telling us to concentrate on what we are doing but how can we stay away from our sea gold when other people are invading our shores.
“The sea cucumber is our bread and butter and we depend on it for our livelihood,” he said.
The village gathered last Sunday and agreed to go publicly and ask NFA to stop people harvesting their sea cucumbers and immediately lift the ban so that they could sustain their livelihood.
Gima pointed out with the high coast of living, school resumption and high fuel prices, maybe NFA should reconsider their stand and open the shores so that they could afford to pay for their goods and services.
“It is not fair because we are suffering while others are benefiting from what we are preserving for later life,” he said.
He said letters will be written to those village churches and urged them to stop harvesting their sea cucumbers and respect the law in place by Moukele village and NFA.
“Because of our friendships with coastal villages, we do not want to be harsh. That is not the way we solve problems,” Gima said.
Meanwhile, there are 22 different species and local markets pay K60 for a kilo of sea cucumber while dried sea cucumber would sell for at K400-K500 a kilo.