SUVA, Fiji – Putting teeth in the new seasonal ban on kawakawa and donu, the Ministry of Fisheries has begun confiscating kawakawa and donu sold illegally.
“The fish that are being confiscated are intended to send an important and clear message: It is now illegal to collect, sell or export kawakawa and donu during the seasonal ban which runs from June until the end of September,” said Ministry of Fisheries Director, Aisake Batibasaga.
Early this week, ministry officials in the Central Division confiscated the first fish from vendors located in Vatuwaqa and Nakasi. The 10 kilograms fish were seized during routine inspections carried out by central division staff who had previously conducted awareness to vendors on the seasonal ban.
Ministry of Fisheries officials noted that the fish seized were also undersize, likely indicating that the fisheries is near collapse and underscoring the need for the ban.
Similar confiscations will be taking place across the country starting this week.
The ministry issued a public notice on 6 June announcing a legal ban on the collection, sale and exportation of kawakawa and donu during their peak breeding months. A grace period was given to fisherman and vendors to sell off any stock of these fish on the local market. The grace period expired on 11 June.
Since the public notice, the ministry has conducted awareness with vendors and provided them with a copy of the notice to ensure that they were aware of the seasonal ban.
Sellers can now have their fish confiscated. Sellers can also be fined, with an immediate fine of $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for corporations. Violators can ultimately be fined up to $50,000 for individuals, and up to $100,000 for corporations. The level of the fine can depend on the severity of the offense and will be determined by the Fiji Court System.
The ban was enacted because of the rapid decline of the critical fisheries. According to the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries, around 80 per cent of Fiji’s known kawakawa and donu breeding sites are either declining or have been lost.
One study found fish landings of kawakawa have declined 70 per cent over 30 years, with some areas in Fiji hardly catching the prized fish anymore.
Prior to the ban, through the 4FJ campaign, more than 15,000 people in Fiji had voluntarily pledged to forego kawakawa and donu during their peak breeding months, to allow them to rebound. cChange, the organization that created the 4FJ campaign for the ministry, found in one survey conducted in the Suva-Nausori corridor that 93 per cent of the public supported the four-month ban.