Solomons unhappy with CITES listing of bech de mer

4:35 pm on 2 September 2019

Solomon Islands is unhappy with the recent listing of three high value beche de mer species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES.

The decision made last week in Geneva at a United Nations meeting, means countries have to conduct strict monitoring and evaluation of the beche de mer species before they can be traded.

The deputy director of inshore fisheries in Solomon Islands, Rosalie Masu, said after tuna, beche de mer is the second biggest fishery in the country.

But unlike tuna, the revenue from beche de mer goes directly to rural and remote communities.

Ms Masu said the new listing could severely affect this crucial source of income for Solomon Islanders because the government does not have the capacity to meet the stricter conditions for trade.

"To carry out non-detrimental findings and other requirements would place a big burden to especially the ministry of fisheries. There is really limited budgets to fulfill these requrements for CITES," Rosalie Masu said.

Dried Beche-de-mer at a market

Dried Beche-de-mer at a market Photo: RNZI

Rosalie Masu said since the decision last week she has already been in talks with the EU and the regional scietific and technical organisations SPREP and SPC about getting assistance to meet the new CITES conditions which will be coming into effect 12 months from now.

"And since SPC and SPREP have programs that are already funded under EU they will be expanding those programs to cater for meeting the capacity...and doing non-detrimental findings so that we can trade these sea cucumbers," Rosalie Masu said.

Of the three species of sea cucumber now listed under CITES Article II the lucrative white and black teatfish are the most common in the Pacific and they can fetch up to $US400 a kilogram in the international market.

The proposal to protect them from being overfished was put forward by the European Union, the United States, Senegal, Kenya and the Seychelles and was supported by Chile and Australia.

Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and China registered their opposition to the move.

Rosalie Masu said in Solomon Islands' context investment in improving inshore fisheries management makes more sense than conservation because local communities are heavily reliant on the fishery for both their income and food security.