4 Jan 2011

Conflicting messages over Solomon Islands beche de mer

11:46 am on 4 January 2011

The government in Solomon Islands appears to be sending mixed message over the fishing of an over-exploited seafood resource, beche-de-mer.

The Ministry of Fisheries is working on a national plan to monitor and assess stocks, while at the same time Cabinet has allowed bags of illegally caught bech de-mer to be exported.

Philippa Tolley has more:

"The Ministry of Fisheries in Solomon Islands is working on a National Plan to monitor and assess the state of beche-de-mer, or sea cucumbers in the waters around Solomon Islands. The Deputy Director of the inshore fisheries, James Tery, told the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation that despite pleas from the outer islands that beche-de-mer is their only source of income, the national ban remains in place. At the same time, the Solomon Star newspaper reports that Cabinet has decided to allow an Asian company, Haizhen Trading to export half a million US dollars worth of illegally caught beche-de-mer. Haizhen Company has been caught twice in a year trying to illegally export the seafood. But the paper reports advice from the attorney general's office was for the two offences to be compounded and the fine restricted to 25 thousand US dollars. The Acting Fisheries Minister, Gordon Darcy Lilo, told the paper Cabinet accepted the advice and allowed the export on condition that 20 per cent was paid in tax. A former head of fisheries, George Boape, is reported as saying that the harvesting and exporting of sea cucumbers is clearly banned and a that there is no reason for leniency with a second time offender."