Minister for Fisheries, Semi Koroilavesau challenged participants of the 2nd National Fisheries Enforcement Forum to come up with solutions that will lift the standard of fisheries in the country.
In opening the forum, Koroilavesau said that as Minister for Fisheries, he understands the importance of compliance and enforcement activities and having the adequate resources to support this, in ensuring the sustainable management of the nation’s fisheries resources.
“The Ministry of Fisheries has the principal function and authority for the conservation, management and development of all fisheries resources within the Fiji fisheries waters, but the Ministry cannot ensure effective enforcement of the fisheries laws on its own.
We can only do this through effective partnerships and working closely with all of our enforcement partners, which includes all of the stakeholders in this room today,” said Koroilavesau.
“Ensuring compliance with fisheries laws and regulations is not an easy task in Fiji. We have a large EEZ and thousands of kilometres of coastal area spread over a wide geographic area.”
Koroilavesau added that engagements such as the Enforcement Forum provides an excellent opportunity for participants to discuss and address some of these challenges; to develop solutions, and to keep improving our collaboration and cooperation in increasing compliance with our fisheries rules.
“The Government recognises the importance of our fisheries resources to all Fijians. We also recognise that our fisheries resources, and in particular our inshore fisheries resources, are under increasing pressure and are being depleted. This Government is committed to turning this around and protecting these resources for the current and future generations of Fiji.”
“But this is more than just a statement. We have demonstrated a commitment to ensure better management of these important resources.”
“We have implemented strong and effective management measures for key inshore fisheries species. We have closed the sea cucumber fishery to allow these stocks to regenerate. We have implemented the first ever seasonal closure of the Grouper and Coral Trout fisheries as a first step towards rebuilding stocks of these fragile & valuable fisheries resources.
We are also now reassessing our current management measures, such as size limits, to ensure that these size limits are achieving the sustainable stock levels that we need to ensure food security for all Fijians,” explained Koroilavesau.
At the first forum, there were robust discussions around the challenges that fisheries officers faced in inshore fisheries.
This second forum looks to build on the conversations started at the first forum and to look at opportunities to build on the progress that has been made since this time.
Koroilavesau added that there are a number of agencies, groups and processes that can, and do, contribute to fisheries compliance and enforcement.
“From ensuring awareness and understanding of fisheries rules so that we encourage people to voluntarily comply, through to ensuring we have effective deterrents and taking fisheries offenders to task through enforcement and prosecution, the Ministry relies on the support and cooperation of partner agencies, groups and organisations.”
Fisheries compliance and enforcement are not easy and there are many moving parts in any effective compliance regime.
“I would like to see in the next two days a fruitful and robust discussions on key fisheries compliance issues and identify ways that we can collaborate more to ensure the sustainability of our fisheries resources and the effectiveness of our fisheries compliance and enforcement efforts,” he said.
Senior officers of the ministry as well as agencies will be part of the two-day’s forum.