Marine species ID manuals to strengthen bycatch data
The Shark and Ray identification manual and Marine Species Identification manual for Horizontal Longline Fishers is produced by the Pacific Community to guide observers and crew of fishing vessels in proper identification and carefully releasing threatened, endangered and protected species or bycatch such as marine turtles, sharks, seabirds etc. that are accidently caught mostly by tuna longline fishing boats.
WWF-Pacific Fisheries Policy Officer, Mr Vilisoni Tarabe said the request for better identification of marine species was raised by stakeholders during the review of the previous National Plan of Action on Sharks for Fiji in 2020.
“The need for correct reporting on the identification of sharks and other non-target species such as marine turtles, dolphins and other tuna species was brought up during discussions by the Fiji Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre team of the RFN to WWF. This request provides an opportunity to strengthen statistical evidence and strengthen advocacy on bycatch.” Mr Tarabe said.
Fiji Revenue and Customs Service Manager for Suva Border, Mr Osea Dakai said that the information provided is vital for his team while identifying marine species.
“In terms of our operation, we focus on the weight and duty that needs to be paid by fishing vessels but we are limited in terms of identifying other marine species, the information provided in the booklet in addition to the posters is a boost for the border team since it prepares us well in identifying species,” Mr Dakai said.
He added that working in partnership with stakeholders such as the Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Waterways and Environment and the RFN strengthens collaboration and aligns them to important regulations that protect marine species such as the Endangered and Protected Species Act and the Offshore Fisheries Management Act 2012 and its regulations.
Deputy Director for the Fiji Maritime Surveillance Rescue Coordination Centre, Mr Jone Vatunilagi also highlighted that the manuals and posters will be utilized by their boarding teams and members of Fiji Navy’s current fleet on the surveillance of vessels.
“The booklets and posters will be given to our current fleet that would be going out for patrols, they would have firsthand information on the types of species of sharks, fish and rays that they encounter not only at sea but during the boarding of vessels in port,” Mr Vatunilagi said.
WWF-Pacific Fisheries Policy Officer Mr Vilisoni Tarabe said the collaborative effort not only builds confidence amongst the stakeholders but is a major stepping stone to improving the collection, management and use of marine fisheries data especially for bycatch.