By TAUNA GEORGE
Samarai-Murua MP Gordon Wesley has described the moratorium on the harvest of beche-der-mer by the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) as a failure.
He called on the fisheries minister and NFA to immediately lift the moratorium because it has not achieved its goals since 2009 but has caused suffering to resource owners.
“The moratorium has paved the way for increased illegal fishing by foreigners at a magnitude never seen before. I must admit that there are over 50 illegal foreign fishing boats currently poaching resources within my electorate,” Wesley said.
He said while the NFA maintained that the moratorium was to replenish the fishery stock, much of it had already been stolen by poachers.
“So far only two foreign fishing boats have been confiscated in our waters. Where is the surveillance that NFA always boasts about?”
He said these illegal fishing boats had sophisticated equipment to detect oncoming vessels which made it easier for them to evade authorities. Therefore illegal fishing was rife in the area.
Wesley said if the moratorium was lifted, locals would take ownership of their resources and waters by providing surveillance every day instead of the monthly patrols conducted by NFA.
He raised this concern following the arrest and conviction of 16 illegal Vietnamese fishermen near Ware Island three weeks ago. Their fishing boat, equipment and beche-de-mer harvest had been forfeited to the State.
“Why can’t the boat and everything be forfeited to the resource owners instead of the State? What belongs to the resources owners must go back to them because it is their property.
Meanwhile, NFA managing director John Kasu said the moratorium has not failed, instead this management intervention has supported sea cucumber populations to recover.
“This has been demonstrated by the results from the annual stock assessments done in maritime provinces that NFA, provincial fisheries administrations, NGO’s, LLGs and communities collaboratively conduct.”
Kasu urged Wesley to consult with his provincial fisheries office or NFA to obtain relevant technical information that demonstrated stock recovery as a result of the six-year closure.
By TAUNA GEORGE