The Fiji Maritime Academy (FMA) has launched its “Protected Species Bycatch Mitigation for the Fiji Offshore Fisheries” training manual, which will strengthen theoretical knowledge of maritime seafarers in the Offshore Fishing sector on the issues of bycatch and contribute to reducing overall bycatch associated impacts in offshore fisheries.
The bycatch training manual is a first for Fiji where a tertiary institution will introduce such training as previously; seafarers would undergo bycatch training whilst on board a fishing vessel.
Bycatch is the incidental catch of non-target species by offshore fishing vessels. This also includes the unintentional catch of ‘species of special interest’ or endangered and protected species such as turtles, sharks and seabirds by the tuna longliners.
In launching the bycatch training manual, Minister for Fisheries, Semi Koroilavesau highlighted the bycatch manual was a step in the right direction in addressing the issues of bycatch for Fiji and the region.
“For Fiji, the Offshore Fishing Sector has been a driver of Fiji’s fisheries economy with its longline fleet being worth around US $60 million annually. In this regard, the sustainable use of tuna resources has been at the forefront of Fiji’s national and regional quest. While recognising that Fiji is at the end trail of migrating tuna stocks, there is a growing international demand for responsibly harvested tuna,” said Koroilavesau.
Koroilavesau added that not only does the manual provide an accredited training platform for crew members; it also offers the perfect opportunity for fish handlers to contribute to a sustainable fishing environment.
“While the development of a “best approach” to mitigate and avoid capture of unwanted bycatch is a huge progress, the success of this tool requires continuous collaboration between all stakeholders, including fishers, processors, trainers, NGOs and national fisheries agency to name a few.”