SUVA, Fiji – The Ministry of Fisheries today launched a private sector outreach program to visit fish sellers in all major towns nationwide in advance of planned seasonal ban on the fishing and sale of all species of kawakawa and donu, June through September.
Fisheries officers today will begin visiting fish sellers in the Suva-Nausori corridor as the peak breeding season for these declining fish quickly approaches. The following week, Fisheries officers will visit sellers along the Coral Coast, as they head out West and in turn, to the Northern Division.
“We want to ensure Fiji sellers are prepared for this year’s ban, and communicate to all their suppliers that these fish are off the market starting June 1,” said Fisheries Permanent Secretary Craig Strong. “We all need to come together to revive these important fish and better protect our food security and the livelihoods of our people.”
Strong added that last year was the first year of the seasonal ban, so fish were confiscated but no fines given. This year, if sellers are found ignoring the ban, fines will be issued.
“The grace period is over,” Strong said.
Ministry of Fisheries Director Mere Lakeba added that the one-on-one visits are geared to building strong relationships with the fisheries sector. As part of the dialogue, fisheries officers will be discussing a broad range of fisheries issues, including the current legal minimum sizes of fish as the ministry has built new capacity to increase enforcement this year.
“We are all aware that our fishers are taking longer, going further than ever before, and catching smaller and smaller fish. Reversing that trend will mean working together and that requires an ongoing and open dialogue,” Lakeba said.
As part of the outreach program, fisheries officers will also be visiting town councils, and police departments who last year joined forces with the ministry to conduct outreach and support enforcement efforts. To help ensure all stakeholders are included, the outreach materials on the ban were produced in English, iTaukei, Hindi and Chinese.
Kawakawa and donu are an A-grade fish that is particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they gather predictably each year in the same channels to breed. Those sites are often fished heavily, leaving few fish behind to restock Fiji reefs. Of the known breeding sites in Fiji, 80 percent are declining or gone, Fiji government reported.
The seasonal ban follows four years of the 4FJ campaign, which was launched in 2014 to encourage people to voluntarily pledge to forego the fish during their peak breeding months, to give them space to breed and replenish Fiji’s reefs. More than 20,000 people have taken the 4FJ pledge to date.