Patrick grateful for opportunities to provide for family
A challenge that most youths in Fiji are still trying to figure out. For 25 year old Patrick Seruvatu, who hails from Tubou village, Lakeba, Lau with maternal links to Mabula village, Cicia, Lau, helping provide for his parents and assisting his 11 siblings is what he strives for.
Patrick is a recipient of the Offshore Fishing Skipper Programme (OFSP) tuition only scholarship that is funded by the New Zealand government through the World Wide Fund for Nature Pacific’s (WWF Pacific) ‘Developing Sustainable and Responsible Tuna Longline Fisheries in Fiji’ project, a partnership between the Ministry of Fisheries, Fiji Maritime Academy (FMA), Fiji Fishing Industry Association and WWF Pacific.
Patrick is currently serving his second stage, 12 months practical onboard, one of Solander (Pacific) Limited’s nine Marine Stewardship Council certified fishing vessels.
For Patrick, he is humbled and thankful to be one of 15 scholarship recipients of the Offshore Fishing Skipper Programme as he has been given an opportunity to not only study but earn a living as well by working as a crew on a longline fishing vessel and at the same time completing his 12 months sea time which is a prerequisite for entry into the OFSP.
He is also grateful to Solander (Pacific) Limited, for providing the opportunity to undertake his 12 months attachment.
“I am very grateful to be given this opportunity by the New Zealand government and also to Solander for the practical attachment.
I just have to work hard and finish the programme so that I can earn a decent income to provide for my family,” said Patrick.
Patrick recently returned from a 19 day fishing trip in June and had gone out on another fishing trip on the Solander V when this article was being written.
As a prerequisite for the first stage of the Offshore Fishing Skipper Programme, maritime cadets had to obtain their Deck Hand Fishing Programme certificate.
The month long course focused on Basic Sea Safety and Deckhand Fishing. For Basic Sea Safety, topics covered included Personal Safety & Social Responsibility, Proficiency in Survival Technique, Elementary First Aid and Basic Fire Prevention & Control.
The Deckhand Fishing component covered Basic Seamenship, Nautical Knowledge and Bycatch Mitigation including Fish Handling, Processing and Storage.
Patrick was part of the first lot of student enrolled in the Deck Hand Fishing Programme that graduated earlier this year.
“I was previously enrolled at FMA for the Nautical Science Programme and had served three months practical in 2013 here at Solander on board Solander 12. Maritime studies are not cheap and I am grateful to be awarded this opportunity for the full scholarship. I do not have to worry about course fees throughout the programme. Also through my practical sea time and completion of Deck Hand Fishing Programme, I am able to earn an income to support my parents and siblings. I am very grateful,” highlighted Seruvatu.
According to Patrick, the bycatch training has built his capacity and prepared him well for the industry.
“When I was serving my practical here at Solander back in 2013, we would come across bycatch but back then I did not know what bycatch was and the process. After the training at FMA earlier this year, now I know the importance of protecting our endangered species. For instance, for sharks, we have to cut off the branch lines and so forth. So I learnt a lot from the month long course but especially on the bycatch component,” added Seruvatu.
The bycatch component part of the project further strengthens WWF’s Areas of Collective Action and Innovation (ACAI) commitment towards the Wildlife and Oceans Practices through increasing awareness on the catch of non-target species by offshore fishing vessels.
This also includes the incidental or unintentional catch of ‘species of special interest’ or endangered and protected species such as turtles, sharks and seabirds by the tuna longliners.
The bycatch module helps build awareness for the trainees on the importance of minimising to the furthest extent possible the impact fishing operations may have on these endangered and protected species while out at sea.
WWF Pacific’s Fisheries Policy Officer, Vilisoni Tarabe, mentioned that it was great to see recipients of the programme grasping the importance of mitigating the catch of bycatch species and their proper handling.
“Patrick mentioned that the theoretical knowledge of bycatch learned in school was very helpful in applying and knowing the reason for proper handling and mitigating as far as possible the catch of any endangered, threatened and protected species (ETP), especially sharks and turtles.”
“Patrick has been onboard other Solander vessels before and has had a bit of experience in the handling of bycatch species and according to him, he did not fully understand why it was done. Attending the bycatch training at the Fiji Maritime Academy has further enhanced his knowledge on the importance of protecting and conserving these ETP species while out at sea,” added Tarabe.
After the 12 months attachment, the second stage towards completion of the Offshore Fishing Skipper Programme kicks off where students are enrolled for three further semesters of theoretical work interspersed with two six month onboard training. Patrick is one of eight apprentices currently undergoing their practical with Solander (Pacific) Limited.