“Our investors’ funds totaling millions of Fijian dollars given to the general public needs to also be recovered, but could not due to the ban in place,” said beche-de-mer exporting company Soluk Island Fresh Company Limited general manager Mikaele Radrodro
Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau said the drastic action taken to ban the harvesting of beche-de-mer was needed because of the depleting stock levels.
Mr Koroilavesau said this was especially based on the fact that these resources identified by the Ministry were at a critical level.
Mr Koroilavesau stated this in response to concerns raised by Soluk Island Fresh Company Limited, an exporting company for beche-de-mer based in Suva, Fiji.
The General Manager admin and finance Mikaele Radrodro said they were verbally informed by the ministry that the ban would be for five years and this would drastically affect all fishermen, divers, middlemen and exporters.
Mr Radrodro said despite the many letters he wrote to the ministry there had been no response to their concerns.
He said it was on September 25 last year that the Ministry conducted a meeting with investors at the Ministry of Fisheries office regarding the ban and finding a solution on methods that could be used by investors to move forward.
He said that however, there had been no feedback.
However since the ban from September 25, 2017, Mr Radrodro said they requested for the harvesting of sea cucumbers to continue until the end of last year so as to make use of their license.
He said this would also be expected for the benefit of diver’s in-terms of income especially in the outer islands who would wish to have some extra cash during New Year, Christmas last year and for their children’s start of the school year expenses.
Mr Radrodro said the consequences of the ban would result in urban drift by rural dwellers from the islands and those who depend on beach-de-mer for their livelihood.
In a letter to the Director Fisheries, Permanent Secretary and Minister, Mr Radrodro said “We the investors have been held accountable to the general public for their source of income generating projects now being banned.
“Our investors funds totaling millions of Fijian dollars given to these general public need to also be recovered, but could not due to the ban in place.”
However, Mr Koroilavesau said the Ministry was not placing the ban because it enjoys upsetting the Fijian people who depend on the income generated from the sales of these resources.
“We are as a country have been placed in a critical stage and therefore requires drastic actions,” he said.
“We first initiated a ban in the use of Underwater Breathing Apparatus (UBA) to stop collection in deep areas which is also the breeding depth of BDM but this ban was clearly ignored.”
He said that the ministry had also experienced fatalities as people died in their greed to dive deeper and for longer periods which ultimately kills humans.
Mr Koroilavesau said the fishermen were driven by the businesses who provided them with boats, engines and compressors and diving equipment that would likely kill them.
“The greed is driven from the exporters who sell BDM to Asia and also profit selling at 300% markup,” he said.
“The people who benefit from the sale of BDM need to know the truth and the simplest way to do this is to ban export as all the other options did not work.”
He said it was important to think beyond one’s own personal greed and consider the next generation.”