The Permanent Secretary for Environment and Waterways – Joshua Wycliffe, officially handed over a total of 136 repatriated ‘tabua’ or whale’s tooth, from New Zealand to the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs.
Acting Permanent Secretary for iTaukei Affairs – Meleti Bainimarama said, the ‘Tabua’ bears deep cultural and historical meaning, for Fiji and the Fijian people.
A total of 146 ‘tabuas’ were received from the New Zealand government, 10 of which will be kept with the ministry of environment, for research purposes.
Any trade or exchange of ‘tabua’ will require primarily the approval of the Permanent Secretary for iTaukei Affairs.
“So under our Fiji Laws anyone wishing to import or export ‘tabua’ to Fiji will need to acquire two documents. One is the Approval Letter by the Permanent Secretary of iTaukei Affairs and a permit from the Department of Environment and we request uin earnest that the public who would like to take ‘tabua’ overseas to give sufficient time especially for the planned trips. So they are able to go through these two procedures in proper and than bring it to us to being able to prceed with the permit process, ” said Permanent Secretary for Environment and Waterways – Joshua Wycliffe.
Wycliffe says that not having the proper paperwork or taking the ‘tabua’ without proper paperwork just adds a lot of pressure.
Hence travellers are advised to plan ahead of travel and a minimum of 5 working days time-frame is given to avoid disappointment in compliance with national laws and regulations.
“When they are not able to have the righr paperwork and passengers take it across to other countries they are stopped at the border. The 146 ‘tabua’ that we have been handed over today are products of people who took or attempted to take without proper paperwork. So our advise to stop that kind of ‘tabua’ being confiscated everyone is please asked to work together with the iTaukei Affairs and with the Ministry of Environment, give us sufficient notice. I have passengers who travel by the 9pm Los Angeles flight coming and knocking the doors at 10am in the morning and perhaps 9am at Ministry of iTaukei affairs.”
He also stressed that Australia will not be able to permit the import of ‘tabua’ through its borders if it is non-compliant.
“The Australian Authorities have notified all parties that under the Convention, Australia will not be able to permit the import of ‘tabua’ through its borders if it is non-compliant. As a result a number of ‘tabuas’ have now being withheld at their borders due to authenticity issues. According to the convention website Australia implements stricter domestic measures that treat all whales and dolphins as though they are listed on Appendix One, which is a restricted listing of species.”
Fiji is a party to the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna called cities.
Wycliffe commended the collaboration and effort between the two ministries in bringing back home the traditional artifact.