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Fishing Operator Asks For Reduction In Albacore Licenses Fiji, January 2, 13

A major fishing operator has called on Government to reduce the number of fishing licenses issued.

Fiji Fish Marketing Group Limited executive chairman, Grahame Southwick, said the fishing licenses currently issued was more than what the industry could cater for.

“Fiji currently licenses 70 vessels which is 20 more than the optimum limit,” he said. “The result is that most of our domestic vessels are operating below breakeven with too many vessels sharing the available catch.”

Mr. Southwick’s claims can easily be backed by a report published by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and Forum Fisheries Agency this year.

The report presented preliminary results of bio-economic analysis discussions on the Fiji Tuna Management and Development Plan.

It stated: “Net economic benefit is maximized at around 18-19 million hooks, or 48 to 51 vessels.”

Government reaction

Meanwhile, the Minister for Fisheries, Lieutenant-Colonel Inia Seruiratu, said Government would definitely to look into this in future. “As I have said Government is not rushing into making any decisions.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Inia Seruiratu did not wish to make any further comments.

Industry survival

Mr. Southwick stressed: “We are hopeful that the Minister is taking us seriously, for if not, the Fiji domestic tuna industry will not survive 2013. The domestic Industry cannot sustain the current losses, and unless the Government acts immediately to reduce the fleet in accordance with the SPC/FFA findings, there will be no domestic fleet in the very near future.”

He said the Ministry and the scientists can only rely on past and old data as they are warning of the crunch ahead as a result.

In fact it is not “ahead of us!”, Mr. Southwick said, “It is already here!”

Meanwhile, the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association recently also highlighted that no commercial fishery can exists if the vessels are not making money.

Foreign fleets hurting us

Coupled with the concern over issuance of too many fishing licenses is also the increasing number of foreign subsidized vessels fishing in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Mr. Southwick said the foreign fleets were hurting all Fiji’s fleet by selling their catch at a much cheaper market price than what Fiji was putting on the market.

“Our traditional markets are being swamped by low-priced fish, and the prices are suffering, being pushed down by the subsidized fleets of foreign vessels,” he said.

Mr. Southwick said these foreign vessels did not require a good price in return as they were already subsidized.

Local depletion

Mr. Southwick indicated Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone was suffering from ‘local depletion’ in addition to the regional depletion.

“As these foreign subsidized fleets converge in the Southwest Pacific, we are seeing a rise in the overall total catch,” he said.

“This is just because of the huge increase in vessel numbers, but at the same time, there is a huge drop in catch per vessel.”