Pacific nations must cut the number of licences they give to foreign fishing fleets if they want to save the local industry, say fishermen.
Fiji’s tuna boat owners say Pacific nations must cut the number of licences they give to foreign fishing fleets if they want to save the local industry.
Only a handful of Fiji’s 100 domestic tuna boats are still operating – despite the multi-billion-dollar fishery in its backyard.
Graeme Southwick of the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association says tuna stocks are so low that Fiji fishermen rarely bring any in, relying instead on other species like red snapper.
“This is the fish now that we have to chase as none of the boats can make a living out of tuna anymore.” he said.
“A tuna company that wants to carry on now has to be prepared to be losing 50-60 thousand dollars a week.”
Fijian fishermen say they are also being priced out of the industry.
Their competition, they say, is from heavily state subsidised fishing boats from China.
Graeme Southwick says the problem is compounded by the ease with which Pacific Island countries grant licences to foreign fleets.
He claims Solomon Islands and Vanuatu release as many licences as they can sell.
WWF’s Western Central Pacific Tuna Programme Officer, Bubba Cook, agrees Pacific nations have helped create the problem.
Fiji’s interim government is cutting the number of licences it issues, but Bubba Cook says that will have little effect unless it’s part of a co-ordinated regional strategy.
“It’s really up to the Pacific island states to decide what they want to have, if they want to have an owner-operated fishery where they’re actually benefiting from the resource both in landings revenue and income and labour, or they want to farm out the licences to distant water fleets that harvest the resource and the profits and go off to their home countries,” he said.