Local fishing operators oppose new licenses for foreign fishing companies

A typical scene of fish loading at the fish markets

BY Lagi Keresoma

APIA: SATURDAY 06 DECEMBER 2014: Two local fishing companies are opposed to plans by the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries to issue new fishing licenses to distant water fishing nations to fish in this part of the Pacific Ocean.

Speaking to Talamua on anonymity condition, they said it is not healthy for countries like Japan, Korea and China to increase their fishing activities near Samoa.

The two fishing company executives compared the situation to trying to compete against the US in sending a rocket to space.

With fish getting harder to find with depleting stocks, the last thing they need is a competition with these big and well-resourced fishing nations.

The local operators also voiced their disagreements with the proposals to expand the ban on the use of Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs).

The fishermen support management and conservation measures taken by the Pacific and do not support the ban on FAD’s.

They say the ban will affect them economically and will have an impact on the community and their families.

Their concerns were echoed in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting by Tuvalu, that opposed the extension of the ban on FAD fishing as it makes their waters less attractive to big fishing companies resulting in a loss of income from selling fish licences.

One of the local fish operators said this issue was raised at a meeting with Samoan fisheries officials last year.

They both agree that the devices are a “boost” to their companies and has work “favourably” for them.

Environmentalists are concerned about use of the devices as they increase the by-catch of bigeye tuna, a species which has reached critically low levels.

The two fishing operators said they understand the concerns over the usage of the devices, but say it is possible to return juvenile fish to the sea.

Asked if there are records of young fish returned to sea after being caught in the FAD’s nets, they both said “yes”.

“Fishermen need to know what to get out of the water and what should not be fished out.”

They believe fishermen need to be well taught and be well aware of these issues.

They also think the Government should prioritize the need of the local fishing industry before attending to international matters.

Samoa has 64 active two hulled fishing alias and 12 big fishing vessels with a wider fishing area they can cover.