2 Feb 2004

Fiji Fisheries minister says licenses could be lost if documents not in order

4:31 pm on 2 February 2004

Fiji's Minister of Fisheries, Konisi Yabaki, says if fishing companies cannot provide the appropriate documentation, they will lose their licenses.

More than 100 boats, half of which are foreign-owned, are on temporary licenses until the end of this month and must prove positive ownership and indigenous partners, in order to renew their permits.

The review by the licensing committee came after allegations that ministry staff were taking bribes in exchange for licenses.

Mr Yabaki says some companies have already provided full documentation while those that haven't are being asked to furnish more information.

"By the end of this month, if they have not satisfied our committee, then they will lose their right for renewal and will be treated as new. In other words, they'll have to reapply. The process will continue - they'll still have an opportunity to get a license but it will not be a continuation of fishing in our waters."

Mr Yabaki says the police investigation into the allegations is continuing.

A number of ministry staff were either transferred or sent on leave as a result.