Report Claims $2.7 Million Lost Over Illegal Fishing In Vanuatu

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Greater observation, inspections within national waters recommended

By Godwin Ligo

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Aug. 2, 2012) – Vanuatu is losing US$2.7 million, which is equivalent to Vt245 million, annually on the exploitation of Yellow Fin Tuna by Taiwanese Fishing Boats that do not have license to fish in Vanuatu waters.

Over 171 Taiwanese Fishing Boats fish in Vanuatu’s economic zone but without Vanuatu Government fishing licenses, according to reports revealed by the skipper and staff of the MV Brigitte Bardot that called in Port Vila last week.

The MV Brigitte Bardot (named after a French Actress) was donated by the Actress to the Seas Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) which is an international non-profit organization committed to stop illegal poaching on high seas.

The organization also works in partnership with governments to protect their waters against illegal fishing activities by foreign fishing companies in different countries economic zones.

Daily Post visited MV Brigitte Bardot last week, and spoke to the captain, and staff as well as two ni-Vanuatu, who assisted them, during their mission in Vanuatu.

The ship’s skipper captain, Sid Chakravarty, from India explained to Daily Post that this is the mission’s preliminary visit to Vanuatu. And the purpose is to discuss with appropriate government authorities on how the organization can assist the Vanuatu government through advice on strengthening of appropriate legislation to better protect Vanuatu’s economic zone from illegal fishing.

"We are here to gather information and make recommendations to the Vanuatu Government on ways and means to stop illegal fishing and exploitation of Vanuatu’s economic zone.

"We have met and established a very good understanding and professional working relationship with appropriate government authorities and look forward for positive outcomes," Captain Chakravarty told Daily Post.

He said their discussions with the Vanuatu government authorities covered three fundamental areas including; patrolling high seas of Vanuatu between territorial sea to economic exploiting zone (EEZ) which involve observation of license fishing vessels, observe and board and inspect fishing vessels for possible illegal catch of yellow fin tuna and sharks, and work with the Malampa Provincial government to set a pilot project on declining sharks sanctuary on a theme ‘No Killing Sharks.’ If proven to be successful then the project can also be applied in other islands and provinces.

"All Pacific Island countries need to work together to have an effective protective system in place for your vast oceans and billions of fish that are being exploited like the long line illegal fishing in the many Pacific countries. Think about the amount of money derived from sell of fish uplifted from the Pacific Island countries illegally?" Chakravarty questioned.

Back to Vanuatu, the captain of Brigitte Bardot revealed that out of 10,000 tons of yellow fin tuna illegally caught in Vanuatu waters each year, 2% is sharks. The sharks bring extra cash for the fishing companies. And out of the sharks their fins is extra cash that goes into the companies’ account making them getting richer while the Vanuatu government struggles to cough up revenue from elsewhere to run the nation.

The Mission will be liaising closely with the Vanuatu Government authorities to tighten up on appropriate legislations to protect the country’s economic zone and the sharks from being exploited and illegally fished for profit gains at millions of dollars while Vanuatu loses out on her marine wealth.

While it is understood that at the moment it is difficult for the Vanuatu to properly patrol its economic zone because of lack of appropriate resources, the country cannot continue to allow this to go on for the next 10 to 20 years which will only result in depleting Vanuatu’s fish and sharks and pumping billions of dollars into foreign countries while Vanuatu is left empty.

"Vanuatu needs to keep an update record on illegal, un-registered, unrecorded (IUU) of fishing vessels in the high seas but this is understandable because of limited patrolling resources that the country has. And this is one of the fundamental purpose of our visit to find out and put forward recommendations to the Vanuatu Government on solutions," the MV Brigitte Bardot captain told Daily Post.

With their findings, the mission will put forward proposals to funding partners to step in with assistance needed by Vanuatu to better control its economic zone.

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