INDIGENOUS FIJIANS TO GET OWNERSHIP OF TRADITIONAL FISHING GROUNDS

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 29, 1999 – PACNEWS)---Fiji’s Cabinet has approved the drafting of new legislation which will give indigenous Fijians ownership rights of their customary fishing grounds or qoliqoli.

A Cabinet statement said the decision honors a long-standing request from the Great Council of Chiefs and the recommendation of the Prime Minister and Minister for Fijian Affairs, Sitiveni Rabuka.

Presently the customary fishing rights of Fijians to their qoliqoli are limited to the right of usage. The ownership rights to these areas are vested in the State under the Crown Lands Act. The Fijians customary rights of usage of their qoliqoli are provided under the Fisheries Act.

The Cabinet statement said the draft legislation would be referred to the new Government and Parliament for approval after next month’s general election.

"In taking this decision, Cabinet assures other communities in Fiji that their rights or access to the waters and fisheries concerned will continue to be respected. All they need to do is to continue what they have been doing now; seek the permission of the traditional fishing right owners for access to their customary fishing area for subsistence purposes," the statement said.

"For commercial fishing activities, the requirement for a license will continue to comply. The general right of access to the public, and the right of transit passage by boat owners and vessel operators through these waters, will also continue to be respected."

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