MP Raises Concerns Over Poaching Of Vanuatu’s Sea Life

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Former minister: 6-8 years sometimes needed to replenish stocks

By Royson Willie

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Sept. 25, 2013) – Former Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Kalvau Moli, has raised concern about the ongoing disregard for international and domestic laws where Vanuatu’s fauna is illegally harvested and smuggled out of the country.

MP Moli said the recent attempted smuggling of sea cucumbers and sea shells via Bauerfield International Airport, that was intercepted by Airports Vanuatu Limited (AVL) security, shows such illegal activities are still taking place despite a ban on such resources.

Moli said when he was minister responsible for fisheries, he had placed a ban on the harvesting of sea cucumbers.

He said such ban was needed as many sea creatures need 6-8 years to replenish their stocks that have been subject to over harvesting in recent years, particularly sea cucumbers.

The illegal incident Moli referred to occurred on September 10 where AVL security officers and Customs officers prevented three men, Chinese nationals, from smuggling sea cucumbers and sea shells out of the country.

According to Customs, Chen Mingli, Li Heqing and another unknown Chinese national had the sea living creatures concealed in three suitcases.

While the details of the unknown smuggler was not available immediately, Chen Mingli was reported to be 46 years old and Li Heqing is 64 years old.

The three were on their way to China and did not have any official documents with them from Fisheries or Environment Department.

The sea cucumbers and shells were confiscated for breaches of the Customs Act and handed over to the Fisheries Department officers.

Meanwhile, MP Moli said such creatures balance the marine eco system of the country that is why a ban was placed.

"These resources may have its medicinal value to some people but to us, it balances the eco system," he said.

The former minister of fisheries further stated that this is a national issue where too many licenses are given out and no proper check mechanisms are put in place to ensure the laws are followed.

He gave an example in the area of fishing vessels with observers on board and that this should be done to observe every licenses that are given out.

He said if such illegal activities continue with no creatures in the sea to balance the eco system, the country may face a critical situation in the future.

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