Twenty-eight pioneer students from the Fiji National University’s (FNU), Fiji Maritime Academy (FMA) graduated from Stage 1 of the theoretical component of the new Deckhand Fishing Programme yesterday afternoon.

The programme was coordinated by World Wide Fund for Nature – Pacific (WWF-Pacific) and the students studied through tuition-only scholarships funding from the New Zealand Aid programme.

FMA Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mahesa Abeynayake, who was also Chief Guest at the graduation, said in an effort to train and qualify young people interested in working in the fishing industry, a programme consisting of safety, fishing and fish handling practice enhanced with knowledge and nautical techniques was necessary.

The Academy introduced this programme as per the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Standard Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW-F 95).

The programme consists of Basic Sea Safety Fishing and Deckhand Fishing teaching basic sea safety fishing, deckhand fishing and knowledge of nautical techniques, ship handling, bycatch mitigation, fish handling, and fish processing.

If they successfully complete the requested sea time, the students can continue on a career path to Near Coastal Fishing Mate, Skipper and Offshore Fishing Skipper.

The graduates were encouraged to work hard as they entered the workforce and to ensure they put into practice what they learned.

“You are our first graduates from this programme, and this is a historic day, not only for you but for FMA as well, as this is a brand new Programme, just for the fishing industry,” Abeynayake said.

“So 10 or 20 years from now, you can tell your children and grandchildren that you were part of the pioneer students of the Deckhand Fishing programme from FMA.”

“You are making history today.”

Abeynayake highlighted that discussions regarding the programme commenced in 2016 and the Academy is proud to offer a course that provides qualification and training in fish handling and processing in Fiji and the Pacific.

“One message that I would like to impart before you receive your certificates is that you are representing FMA and our motto ‘Honour through Discipline’,” Abeynayake added.

“Our lecturers have given you sea knowledge, and that’s only 50 percent of what you need.”

“The other is simple things like your work attitude – coming to work every day and going to watching time and not asking for a lot. Start with these simple things, and you will succeed.”

Graduate Vaseva Dale, 19, from Naiserelagi Village in Ra said the one-month theoretical component of the Programme equipped her with the skills she would need while on attachment.

“Since I was a young girl, I have always wanted to work on a Fishing vessel out at sea, and this Programme has provided me with some of the skills I need to succeed in the industry, and I am excited to complete my practical experience before returning to FMA to continue my studies,” Dale said.

“It is quite an honor to also be one of 14 females in our class of 28, and the fact that we are pioneer students of this programme means FMA is making huge development in terms of providing the qualifications and training needed for those working in the maritime industry.”

Satini Sevutia echoed similar sentiments, highlighting that the bycatch component of the Programme was vital as it highlighted the need for sustainable fishing.

The former Queen Victoria School (QVS) student added that he enrolled in the Programme to complement his career goal of becoming a skipper of a fishing vessel over 24 meters.

“I have learned a lot from the time at FMA, and I am committed to undergoing all the courses and training I need to achieve my dream of becoming a skipper,” Sevutia said.

“My father attended FMA and is now an Engineer, and now I am doing the same to become a Skipper.”

The 28 graduates will now undergo practical work experience on fishing vessels.

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