31 May 2007

Fiji fishing industry riddled with abuse - claim

3:38 pm on 31 May 2007

Fiji's fishing industry says incidents of illegal fishing, irregular trans-shipments and non-compliance with Fiji licence conditions are rampant and out of control.

The Fiji Times Online quotes an industry insider as saying between 30 and 50 percent of Fiji's licensed fleet is non-compliant with their licence conditions, and as such fishing illegally with the full knowledge of the fisheries ministry.

The insider says the situation is creaming hundreds of thousands of dollars out of state coffers and puts honest companies at a disadvantage because they have to compete with pirate companies which operate outside the net.

The claim comes in the wake of reports from New Zealand of a dramatic increase in the number of sightings of unauthorized fishing vessels in the western and central Pacific in the last three months which is alarming regional fisheries officials.

The Fiji insider says Fiji is accepting and even subsidising these illegal operators, amid very strong evidence of large volumes of illegally caught fish being laundered through Fiji.

He says the Fiji fisheries ministry is not equipped to deal with these scams.