Toolkits and awareness materials to strengthen by-catch mitigation efforts in Fiji’s offshore fishing industry
By-catch is the unintentional catch of non-targeted species such as protected sea turtles, sharks and seabirds and is an ongoing concern in global offshore fisheries. Therefore, with the roll-out of the by-catch mitigation toolkits and awareness materials, it is envisaged that the awareness and improvement of safer handling of by-catch in Fiji’s offshore fishing industry will be further strengthened.
“The toolkits and awareness materials are a result of discussions and planning between WWF, FFIA, Ministry of Fisheries (MoF) and a wide range of stakeholders over the last year or so. This is a great achievement as our skippers and crew are now well equipped with by-catch mitigation tools and materials to safely handle by-catch of non-target species,” said WWF-Pacific’s Fisheries Policy Officer Vilisoni Tarabe.
For the companies that have received their by-catch mitigation toolkits and awareness materials, this could not have come at a better time.
“The materials will greatly assist our new crew especially as previously they would learn through experience out at sea and they would not necessarily have access to all by-catch mitigation tools out at sea and with the new awareness we are grateful for this opportunity to build such capacity,” said Solander Pacific Limited’s General Manager, Radhika Kumar.
The mitigation toolkits and awareness materials will be placed on board all FFIA member fishing vessels for skippers and crew to use for the safe handling and best practice methods of releasing by-catch of non-target species.
“The materials will greatly help our crew especially for the by-catch toolkits; we don’t have all the tools at our disposal. But now our crew are well equipped,” added Juls (Fiji) Pte Limited’s General Manager, Mereia Loga.
“Most of our crew members and captains are well versed with by-catch; however these additional measures reinforce that belief that we (companies) are serious about by-catch and our commitment to sustainable fishing practices,” added Hangton Pacific Company Limited’s General Manager, Jitendra Kumar.
Jamie Davies, By-catch and Integrated Ecosystem Management (BIEM) Initiative Manager at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) added his support for the initiative. “By-catch of turtles, sharks, seabirds, whales and dolphins is one of the many threats facing these important species. For example, according to Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries 2019 data estimates reveal that 2,448 sharks and 45 turtles were un-intentionally caught by Fiji tuna longliners. In comparison, 2018 data estimates reveal that 4,311 sharks and 83 turtles were un-intentionally caught. This is a positive sign, but SPREP recognises the importance of further reducing these figures and is very pleased to be supporting efforts in Fiji and across the Pacific to reduce the catch of non-target species and, if they are caught, to ensure that fishing crews have the knowledge and equipment to release them alive when possible.”
The supply of the by-catch mitigation toolkits and awareness materials was supported by the BIEM Initiative implemented by SPREP under the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme funded by the European Union and the Government of Sweden; and by the New Zealand government through the Developing Sustainable and Responsible Tuna Longline Fisheries in Fiji project that is a project partnership between the FFIA, MoF, Fiji Maritime Academy and WWF.
Each by-catch mitigation toolkit consists of a toolbox that houses a set of pliers; bolt cutter; turtle de-hooker; and machete with a blade cover. A turtle dip net will also be provided at a later date as stakeholders are currently working on amending the current design to improve functionality. The awareness materials consisted of a copy of the recently launched ‘Bycatch Best Handling Practices: A Guideline for Skippers and Crew on Longline Fishing Vessels in Fiji’, a set of four by-catch posters of sharks, sea turtles and sea birds, and a marine species identification manual that was supplied by the Pacific Community.
The Fiji Fishing Industry Association’s (FFIA) remaining 45 longliners will receive their toolkits and set of awareness materials in the coming months. A set of awareness materials will also be given to all other non FFIA member companies that are licensed to fish in Fiji waters and as well as those that fish in the high seas.
SPREP is leading Key Result Area 5 of the PEUMP programme, the BIEM Initiative, to support the governments of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu in the sustainable management of coastal and marine biodiversity.
For more information please contact Jamie Davies, BIEM Initiative Manager, at SPREP: firstname.lastname@example.org.