Near-Shore Poaching Increasing Around Vanua Levu In Fiji

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Authorities lack manpower, resources to thwart fish poachers

By Serafina Silaitoga

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 26, 2012) – Poaching in the qoliqoli, or shore areas, of Vanua Levu has worsened, says divisional fisheries officer north Gerald Billings.

The situation has seen his office receive at least three to four reports of poaching per week in the provinces of Cakaudrove, Bua and Macuata.

Compared to last year, Mr. Billings said his department would receive about four cases a fortnight.

He said poachers, who come in from Viti Levu, enter the qoliqoli at night especially after midnight and towards the early hours of the morning.

"And they come in with advanced fishing equipment including boats that are much faster than the ones we have here.

"They come prepared, attack our qoliqoli with their illegal fishing activities and they leave for Viti Levu while it is still dark," Mr. Billings said.

"It is also a risk for my team to go out there at night and not as well-equipped as the poachers. Anything can happen as they risk their lives."

Mr. Billings has called on provincial qoliqoli committees to step in and equip their fishing wardens to stop the illegal fishing activities.

He said fishing license fees could be used to buy boats and other equipment for fishing wardens.

Mr. Billings added that the lack of resources and manpower in his department was a major challenge.

"We are lucky to have the assistance of the naval officers who come around to Vanua Levu every now and then to patrol our waters. Their presence to monitor the qoliqoli and apprehend poachers has been effective. During their patrol, poachers keep off and we notice this as we received fewer reports," Mr. Billings said.

The fishing license holders in Vanua Levu would lose out, he said.

"With this poaching activity in Vanua Levu, business for our fishing license holders will be affected as the poachers come in to take whatever they can from the qoliqoli through illegal fishing practices."

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