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By Lice Movono

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Dec. 8) -- Fishing licenses continue to be under scrutiny as a dispute between a large local fishing company and a resort owner heats up. Fiji Fish managing director Grahame Southwick has now lodged formal complaints after workers at Nagigia Island Resort on Kadavu were sent by its owner to cut off fishing lines from one of his vessels which had become entangled on nearby reefs. "There are some illegal activities going on in this area," Mr Southwick said. "These same people are cutting our lines, stealing the floats and very expensive radio beacons in the mistaken belief that they are targeting illegal vessels."

Mr Southwick said he had contacted the police to investigate "constant theft of legitimate property". He said the crew of the OMJO01, who are from Kadavu, would have to replace the property. Resort owner Harley Jones did not deny the allegations that his workers cut off the vessel’s fishing lines but said he had been told by Fisheries Department officials in July, 2004, that new rules had been put in place forbidding long-liners to fish within 12 nautical miles offshore. "Fisheries officials provided a map to this effect and they said only vessels up to 20 metres could fish as close as the OMJO01 did," Mr Jones said. "The fisheries enforcement officials also confirmed that the newly-appointed fishing wardens of Nabukelevu-ira could arrest any long-liner that was fishing illegally."

Mr Jones said the OMJO01 had been fishing in the area near his island from last Wednesday and he had lodged a complaint with the fisheries director, Saimoni Tuilaucala. "I lodged a complaint asking why the OMJO01 had not yet been arrested," Mr Jones said. "He told me that they were still checking its license." The director of fisheries should publish on the government website the names of all long-liners who are licensed to fish and the specifics of their license so that fishing wardens can actively oversee and prevent illegal fishing in their waters, Mr Jones said.

Mr Southwick reiterated that his vessel was not fishing illegally. A document obtained by the FijiSUN showed the fisheries department defending the Fiji Fish Company to the Kadavu resort owner.

"The surveyed length of the vessel is 14.65 metres," the document said. "The vessel is a tuna long line vessel and the only area that is prohibited is all native customary fishing right areas." The fisheries department needs to clarify how far customary fishing grounds extend, Mr Southwick said. When contacted, Mr Tuilaucala was still not available for clarification yesterday.

December 9, 2004


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