Friday, 3 August 2012

Bad News from Fiji

Rusi and one of his Tiger. Pic by Doug Perrine

In a disappointing u-turn from what had previously looked almost certain to happen, the Fijian government have voted "no" on the Shark Sanctuary.

The decision was made by the ministry following a finding in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s (WCPFC) Conservation and Management Measures.

Mr Chand said Fiji was bound by the laws of WCPFC. “As a member of the WCPFC, Fiji has to comply with its Conservation and Management Measure which specifically prevents members from targeting sharks,” he said.

“This also applies to all Fiji flagged vessels and foreign fishing vessels which use Fiji port. One of the requirements of this measure is for fishers having shark fins onboard to also have shark carcass.”
Provisions have been made in the Draft Offshore and Inshore Fisheries Management Decree to protect sharks which will be submitted to the Solicitor General’s office soon.

“At this moment, a shark sanctuary for Fiji is not a priority but to have a National Plan of Action for the Protection of Sharks first.” Deputy permanent secretary for Fisheries Penina Cirikiyasawa revealed meetings with relevant stakeholders would be organised to formulate a National Plan of Action for the Protection of Sharks.

“The ministry will now organise stakeholders meetings to formulate a National Plan of Action for the Protection of Sharks, therefore, there is no need for a separate Cabinet Paper on the subject matter and there will be no shark sanctuary.

“We have now noted that protection of sharks is adequately embedded in the Draft Inshore Decree which is yet to be submitted to the Solicitor General’s Office for legal vetting,” Mrs Cirikiyasawa said.

There has been intense lobbying in the last few weeks by the Tuna industry and what had previously looked being a very likely "yes" vote has swung the other way. I won't speculate as to what factors influenced that decision, preferring instead to offer unwavering support to those on the ground in Fiji who have dedicated the last three years to making this happen as they pick up and start again.

This is a terrible set back but the team fighting for this Shark Sanctuary is made up of some fine individuals who I know will not give up on this.

Good luck to them as they dust themselves off and start again.

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