The Fiji Maritime Academy (FMA) in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature – Pacific (WWF-Pacific) will be introducing a specific bycatch component to FMA’s new Deck Hand Fishing and Offshore Fishing Skipper Programmes.
This is a first for Fiji, where bycatch mitigation training will now be offered at a tertiary institution in the country.
“FMA is the only maritime trainer provider that is approved by the Maritime Safety and Authority of Fiji and this is the reason we have this partnership on seafarer / fishermen programme. Also, FMA has the facilities to carry out such trainings. The trainings will build that capacity of the industry,” highlighted FMA’s Head of Safety, Survival and Fisheries Department, Captain Tevita Robanakadavu.
The new programmes will help enhance sustainability of the tuna longline fisheries in Fiji.
“Bycatch is the catch of non-target species by offshore fishing vessels. This also includes the incidental or unintentional catch of ‘species of special interest’ or endangered and protected species such as turtles, sharks and seabirds by the tuna longliners. These programmes will help create awareness to the deckhand and officers on the importance of minimising to the furthest extent possible the impact fisheries operations may have on these endangered and protected species while out at sea,” highlighted WWF-Pacific’s Sustainable Fisheries and Seafood Programmes’ Fisheries Policy Officer, Vilisoni Tarabe.
“Fiji wants to demonstrate to the market place that Tuna sourced from its longline fishery had been done in a way that is responsible. So I am to assist FMA to build training capacity so that they can train new crew and officers in protected species bycatch mitigation techniques. This work involves collaboration between FMA, WWF-Pacific and the Ministry of Fisheries,” said Pacific Networks Limited Director and consultant, Alec Woods.
As part of the bycatch component, WWF-Pacific has recruited Alec Woods to create a bycatch manual that will be incorporated into both programmes.
The fisheries training consultant is also carrying out a two day bycatch capacity training with FMA assistant instructors who will administer the Deck Hand Fishing and Offshore Fishing Skipper Programmes when semester one begins next month.
‘We will look at what shapes our attitudes towards protected species, from an international level down to the national and local level. We will cover species identification, handling and release and discuss ways that we can minimize the incidental capture of turtles, sharks and seabirds. Trainees will become familiar with the equipment that vessels must carry so that by-catch can be minimized and captured animals released quickly, safely and humanely,” added Woods.
Part of the WWF-Pacific and FMA partnership will see 31 scholarships offered for the Deck Hand Fishing Programme and 15 scholarships for the Offshore Fishing Skipper Programme.
This is made possible through WWF-Pacific’s ‘Developing Sustainable and Responsible Tuna Longline Fisheries in Fiji’ project that is funded by New Zealand Aid’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and WWF New Zealand.