A joint operation between Fijian and New Zealand authorities has begun to track down unlicensed fishing operations within Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
Called Operation Wasawasa II, it will continue for the next three months.
This was confirmed by the Director of Fisheries Aisake Batibasaga.
Mr Batibasaga said the NZ Navy HMNZS Taupo arrived in Fiji on May 26 and has been assisting the ministry since then.
Mr Batibasaga could not disclose the number of poachers who had their catch confiscated.
He said there were judicial processes that needed to be concluded for all identified alleged offending.
When asked what they do with the catch he said, “It is documented by the officers who confiscate the catch and disposed of, discarded or sold as per Government processes and legislative requirements.
“The ministry cannot allow illegal fish to be retained by alleged offenders,” Mr Batibasaga said.
He said a licence was needed where fishing was for commercial purposes such as business or trade with a few exceptions, predominantly fishing from shore with a line.
“We would like to reinforce that any fisheries inspections are being led by Fiji Ministry of Fisheries Officers with the support and assistance of Fiji Navy, NZ Navy and MPI New Zealand.
“This a part of a broader compliance approach by the Ministry of Fisheries and the ministry will continue to work with our local Fiji enforcement agencies and partners to ensure that there is compliance with the ministry’s rules and regulations to protect the important fisheries resources for the people of Fiji.
“It is our strong plea to the fishermen and the public to comply with these rules to ensure sustainable fisheries for Fiji or face potential enforcement action.”
According to a Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency 2016 report, US$600m (about FJ $1.25billion) a year is lost to illegal fishing in the Pacific Ocean.
While it is difficult to estimate the total catch lost to pirate fishing, some researchers say as much 26 million tonnes is illegal fished every year.
That is about 33 per cent of the world’s total legal catch, according the World Ocean Review.