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Controls access licenses and inshore fisheries

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, March 30, 2009) – A new fisheries regulation signed by the Minister for Agriculture Havo Moli is bound to strengthen the current Fisheries Act (CAP 315) through various conservation and management efforts developed to boost sustainable development and management of Vanuatu’s fishery resources.

Minister Moli signed the regulation which became legally active as of Friday March 20 of 2009. The new regulation not only affects access agreements through licensing of fishing vessels but also inshore fisheries resources such as trochus, green snails, sea cucumber and coconut crabs.

Director of Fisheries, Robert Jimmy said basically the regulation will help them better enforce sustainable utilization and management of the various fisheries activities taking place today consistent with the status of the stocks. For example enforcement of closed seasons for coconut crabs in Sanma and Torba Provinces which is now legally binding under the new regulation.

A number of fisheries such as sea cucumber and green snails have also been closed temporarily for fishing due to their declining stock status forcing the Fisheries Department to close these fisheries and not to issue any more new licenses.

Sea cucumber has been closed since 2008 for a period of five years and green snail fishery has been closed since 2005 for 15 years, an attempt to revitalize the natural stocks.

The new regulation reviewed and reset the size limits of certain key inshore resources which have previously not been included.

The new regulation further enforces "closed areas" such as the archipelagic waters which are prohibited for fishing by foreign and locally based foreign fishing vessels.

"The regulation now covers them," he said.

Jimmy continued that other fisheries activities such as the aquarium trade and aquaculture are included in the regulation.

Under the new regulation, closed areas and areas such as dive sites, community protected areas and taboo areas are prohibited from aquarium collection. In addition, operation of aquaculture as an industry will now be regulated and environmental impact assessment of aquaculture development will be considered crucial to safe practices of aquaculture developments in the country.

The main features of the regulation are the issue with the fishing license fee for foreign, locally based foreign and local vessels.

There has been a significant increase in the access fees issued to different categories of vessels incorporated which takes into consideration the on-shore processing facilities which goes in-line with the national tuna management pan, which was launched by the Minister responsible for Fisheries in November 2008.

This plan contained prescribed tuna management fees which Fisheries Department will begin to endorse this year on all the fishing boats licensed under Vanuatu government. Even game fishing activity is covered under the new regulation as operators do sell their catches also to the local market.

"Basically the new measure further enhance the regulatory processes of the various fishery sectors as well as improve the management mechanisms of our marine resources in the country," said the Acting Director.

Given the on-going trend in the dynamics of the fisheries sector development in the country and fisheries sector being an important revenue arm of the government, it is important that our national regulatory measures are continuously revisited to ensure compatibility of our national legislation with the state of play of our fisheries sector.

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