FIJI CHIEF WANTS CONTROLS ON SEA SLUG HARVEST

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Fears depletion of the delicacy

By Serafina Silaitoga SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan 4, 2010) – In Fiji, a paramount chief in the north has expressed concern with the uncontrolled harvesting of sea slugs in Macuata waters.

[PIR edior’s note: Macuata is one of Fiji's fourteen Provinces, and one of three based principally on the northern island of Vanua Levu, occupying the north-eastern 40 percent of the island. It has a land area of 2004 square kilometers with a population of approximately 73,000 people.]

The Tui Macuata, Ratu Aisea Katonivere, says that while it may bring financial rewards to his people, he fears the impact this will have on the reefs and its consequences.

One of the consequences, he says, will be high waves and this will impact villages on the coast.

"I have been to the Ministry of Fisheries and other government departments but no one seems to know exactly who can control sea slug harvesting in our qoliqoli [fishing grounds]," said the Tui Macuata.

"Villagers have sold tonnes of sea slugs and beach-de-mer to fishing and seafood companies in Labasa, and they in turn get millions of dollars from exporting to Asian markets."

Ratu Aisea said his worst fear was that villagers would, in the near future, face the effects of uncontrolled sea slug harvesting.

Scientists have stated that human activities have been the major cause of damage to reefs.

Ratu Aisea said while the vanua [land/people, custom] could control fishing through the issuance of licences and permits to fishermen, it was sad they could not control the harvesting of sea slugs.

"If nothing is done now, then our future generations will definitely be affected, especially our villagers who live by the seashore," he said.

"Our villages are protected from huge waves by the reefs, and such uncontrolled harvesting will damage the reefs resulting in huge waves hitting the villages and that is dangerous."

Ratu Aisea called on the relevant authorities to look into uncontrolled harvesting before it affected the livelihood of villagers.

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