28 Feb 2020

Fiji tackles disposal of 260kg of seized fish

9:47 am on 28 February 2020

Fiji's Fisheries Ministry is looking at how to dispose of more than 250kg of fish it confiscated during last year's four month harvest ban.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The government banned the fishing, sale and export of all species of kawakawa (grouper) and donu (coral trout) during their peak spawning from June to the end of September, in a bid to revive the rapidly declining stocks.

Last August, the ministry had seized 1.2 tonnes of fish of which 600kg was the banned species.

Minister Semi Koroilavesau said three people had also been charged after 260kg of banned fish was found on a vessel in Suva last July.

He said dumping, as had been done in the past, was no longer an option for the government because the value of the fish was high.

Mr Koroilavesau is awaiting legal advice from the Solicitor-General on how to dispose of the fish.

He said in the past, the ministry would use the seized fish as feed for aquaculture.

"We're also looking at the option of legally selling it at a cheaper price than what is available in the market today," he said.

"To put it out as a government tender to the public where people can buy it."

Fiji government whip Semi Koroilavesau

Fiji government whip Semi Koroilavesau Photo: RNZI / Sally Round

Mr Koroilavesau said the banned species were a delicacy for locals and tourists alike and could be found on the main menu in most of the country's restaurants.

He said the seized fish - valued at over about $US5000 - would not have an impact the overall number of the species in the wild.

But he said he was disappointed that people continued to violate the ban.

"Monitoring and policing this ban is quite difficult because we have only been able to catch those people who bring it to the main market area in the urban towns," he said.

"What happens outside the urban centres is dependent on our officers stationed in the various villages."

Mr Koroilavesau said the seasonal ban for the donu and kawakawa species would continue this year from 1 June to 30 September.

"The ban is specifically to allow the fish to spawn. That is the prime spawn period from June to September," he said.

"If we allow them to spawn and then you catch them - at least they've released 500,000 eggs - and at least it's contributed to the regeneration of these two species."

The ministry warned that any person or business found violating the four-month ban period could receive fines of up to $US20,000 for individuals and $US40,000 for corporations.

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