Fiji Maritime Academy graduates second batch of Deck Hand Fishing students

Posted on 23 September 2022
FMA's Deck Hand Fishing Prog. graduates with their certificates.
© Ravai Vafoou
Suva, Fiji – 23 students graduated from Fiji National University’s Maritime Academy (FMA) Deck
Hand Fishing Programme.

The graduates join 28 other students who completed the one-month intense theory and hands-on
training course on basic sea safety, nautical and by-catch knowledge last month.

The by-catch component of the course aims to streamline sustainable fishing practices and
applications by upscaling the awareness, knowledge and skills of the fisheries workforce on preventing
and mitigating by-catch of protected marine species such as sharks and turtles.

Today’s cohort of graduates were scholarship recipients funded through the By-catch and Integrated
Ecosystem Management (BIEM) Initiative of the European Union and Government of Sweden funded
Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme under the project partnership of
FMA, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment
Programme (SPREP).

The scholarships covered the course tuition and a weekly stipend for transportation and meal allowances.

FMA Chief Executive Officer, Captain Rajitha Semage, highlighted that today’s graduates are equipped
with the necessary knowledge to join the work force in Fiji’s fishing vessels.

"These 23 students would take the grand total of Deck Hand Fishing (DHF) students trained by FMA to
100. It is a milestone not only for the Academy and the University, but it is also an important milestone
for the region," Captain Semage said.

"I sincerely thank the sponsors and WWF-Pacific. Their support contributes towards a great future for
these students, and towards ensuring the sustainability of our oceans, which is also highlighted in the
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"I would also like to acknowledge the staff at FMA for working with the students, sponsors, and
industry to ensure that the programme is a success. Education for employability is Pillar One of FNU’s
Strategic Plan 2021–2026 and this programme is a true testament to that, as these students would be
absorbed by the industry eagerly waiting for competent deck hand candidates."

WWF-Pacific’s Fiji Conservation Director, Francis Areki, stated that despite an FAO report stating that
around 9.1 million tonnes of fish are discarded annually in the global marine capture fisheries that
includes sea turtles; such initiatives go a long way towards addressing the issues of by-catch in Fiji and
the Pacific.

“For Fiji’s offshore fishing sector, the industry is upskilled in terms of having qualified deck hand crew
who better understand issues such as by-catch of protected species of sharks and turtles. And to have
the skills and best practices to help mitigate the detrimental impacts of fishing to the wider marine
ecosystem,” said Areki.
“The Deck Hand Fishing programme not only provides greater awareness of safety while at sea, but
unique to Fiji is the addition of a module in the curriculum devoted to by-catch mitigation that WWF
helped to develop with FMA, emphasising Fiji’s commitment to a sustainable fishing industry that
acknowledges environmental concerns on by-catch,” added Areki.

The term “by-catch” refers to the unintentional catch of a fish or other marine species, while fishing
for a particular species.

According to the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries' Observers' Reports, in 2018 there were 4,311 shark species
interactions and 2,448 shark species interactions in 2019 in the Fiji longline fishery. For sea turtles, the
Observers' Reports for 2018, 2019, and 2020 documented 70, 45, and 37 cases of gear interactions,
respectively for each of those years.

Jamie Davies, BIEM Initiative Manager at SPREP said, “This work supports the objectives of the Pacific
Islands Regional Marine Species Programme 2022-2026 to reduce threats and enhance populations of
sea turtles, whales and dolphins, sharks and sea birds in the Pacific Ocean. These animals are attracted
by the bait on the longline hooks and can be caught themselves causing injury or death. This course is
a key part in raising crew members’ awareness of this issue and providing the tools to enable them to
safely release these animals when they are caught.”

For the students who graduated today, a lot of learnings have been unpacked from the month-long
DHF Programme.

“I have come to learn that by-product refers to untargeted species with some commercial value and
by-catch is untargeted species with no commercial value such as turtles and mammals. Previously we
would term everything as by-catch,” highlighted 44 year old graduate, Asena Kalidole Vakacegu.
“For the by-catch mitigation toolkits, some are not available on a fishing vessel such as a turtle dip-
net; so mostly we just cut the line with a knife or scissors. So it’s good to have the proper tools available
when dealing with by-catch out at sea as what we have learnt from the Programme,” added 25 year
old graduate, Harold Mainiudua.

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.

The BIEM Initiative consists of eight integrated areas consisting of marine spatial planning; integrated
‘ridge to reef’ ecosystem strategies and coastal zone management planning; development and
integration of climate change adaptation strategies into coastal community plans; assessment of
bycatch of endangered species and extinction risk; development and implementation of bycatch
mitigation strategies; capacity development through research grants to citizens of Pacific island
countries; support for community monitoring and protection of endangered species; and capacity
development of Non-Detrimental Findings process for CITES partners. Human rights and gender
equality will be at the core of the development and implementation of each of these components.
FMA's Deck Hand Fishing Prog. graduates with their certificates.
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Deck Hand Fishing graduate, Ifereimi Vono receiving his certificate from FMA CEO Capt. Rajitha Semage.
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Deck Hand Fishing graduate, Tipo Visoni receiving his certificate from WWF-Pacific's Director, Dr. Mark Drew.
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Deck Hand Fishing graduate, Sainvalati Tubuna receiving his certificate from SPREPs BIEM Initiative Consultant, Anish Maharaj.
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Deck Hand Fishing graduate, Asena Vakacegu receiving his certificate from WWF-Pacific's Fiji Conservation Director, Francis Areki.
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Capt. Pickering giving his address at the Deck Hand Fishing Prog. graduation at FMA in Suva.
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Deck Hand Fishing Prog. graduates with FMA, SPREP & WWF-Pacific representatives.
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Capt. Pickering speaking to attendees at FMA's Deck Hand Fishing Prog. Graduation.
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