Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Go Fiji Go!!!!

Very happy Bull Shark - great Pic by Sasha!

I must say, I am overjoyed - and that would be an understatement!
Today's media release by Kalpana Prasad of the Fiji Ministry of Information reads as follows.

(Wednesday 06 July 2011, No:1398/MOI)
Fiji reviews fisheries law to protect the 'King of the Seas'

First it was turtles and now the Fijian Government is out to protect sharks.
A new landmark policy to counteract the alarming decline of sharks in Fiji is being drafted by Government.

Department of Fisheries and Forests permanent secretary Commander Viliame Naupoto confirmed that a review of Fiji’s fisheries laws would include a ban on the trade of all shark fin and other products derived from any type of shark that is captured in Fiji waters.

The ban only affects trade and does not stop villagers from consuming shark meat.

Commander Naupoto clarified the proposed ban was being styled upon a ban protecting turtles.
The only variation from the turtle ban is that locals can still consume shark meat.

The policy aligns the fisheries department vision of achieving growth and ensuring food security through sustainable marine resource management as outlined by Pillar 5 of the People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress.
The pillar makes clear that the achievement of higher economic growth can be achieved through the agriculture and marine sectors but this must be carried out in a sustainable manner.

“We want to ban all trade of shark products in Fiji, in order to conserve this species,” Commander Naupoto said.
“We are reviewing the fisheries management law and in it we want to incorporate the ban of all shark meat and products in Fiji, especially the trade of shark fins.”

Sharks often termed the ‘king of the seas’ with their position at the top of the marine food chain, play a critical role within these ecosystem by controlling the population of certain marine species.
“If those animals have no predator than their increase can cause an imbalance in the marine ecosystem and can affect the middle of the food chain, which is where we get most of our livelihood from,” he said.

Commander Naupoto said the emerging market in shark tourism had huge potential in Fiji, as an economic exchange earner but also in terms of providing employment to the local communities.
“Due to the emerging new trends in shark tourism in the country, sharks are more valuable to us alive than dead,” he said.

Beqa Adventure Divers director and shark conservationist Mike Neumann highlighted that Beqa Adventure Divers generated about $3million in direct and indirect revenue that were all invested in Fiji.
“It has been shown that divers will prefer and pay a premium for destinations where they are likely to encounter Sharks.” Mr Neumann said.

“Every single tourist coming to Fiji, does so because of Fiji’s pristine marine environment, if Fiji’s oceans die, the tourists will go somewhere else where the sea is not depleted.
“They have a choice – we do not, we will end up losing an industry that contributes to 55 per cent of Fiji’s GDP. Conversely, if Fiji protects Sharks, it will over time have a huge competitive advantage over other island states that do not.”

Neumann said globally all sharks were endangered because they mature late in life and have only few offspring, meaning that trying to restore depleted shark populations is practically impossible as it would take decades, even centuries for slow growing species.
“This legislation will be hailed worldwide and contribute substantially to enhancing the positive impression of the Government of the day,” he added.

Results of the review of the fisheries law will be submitted to Cabinet.
“Our paper should go to Cabinet with the intention of protecting sharks, we have circulated the paper once and it is in to its second circulation,” said Commander Naupoto.
“In the interests of the sustainable management of marine resources he hopes reviews to the fisheries laws will be approved by year end.”

Fiji will be the first Melanesian country to approve such a law.

-ENDS-

How GREAT is that!!!
It has already been reported by the FBCL and by today's main news on FijiTV, and will very likely be featured in all of the Nation's newspapers tomorrow.
For our Fijian readers:
tomorrow Thursday July 7 please tune into Fiji Gold's Talk Back program at 11am and tell them about your support for this visionary legislation! Internet users can listen in by going to the FBCL website, putting the cursor over the Fiji Gold icon and then clicking on Listen Live.

Our involvement?
Before you start thinking that I may be hinting that yours truly, or BAD may have played some pivotal role in achieving this: no we have not.
But after so many years of successful cooperation with Government and having made public statements about the need for Shark protection, I've kinda become the go-to man when it comes to proffering pro-Shark sound bites, and I was thus asked to say something.

Having been graciously kept in the loop, I however know who did this.
So before the usual suspects start beating their chests, here are the people that have been working tirelessly to make this happen
  • Very much first and foremost: The Fiji Department of Fisheries, namely our good friend Principal Research Officer Aisake Batibasaga, the Director Commander Naqali and the Permanent Secretary Viliame Naupoto, and their teams. I must say, ever since I've come to Fiji to talk about Sharks, Fisheries have been unbelievably open, supportive and proactive, being in helping create the SRMR and the Shark Corridor, in training our Fish Wardens, in supporting the Fiji Shark Conservation and Awareness Project or more recently, in mediating contacts to planters under our Mangroves for Fiji project (excellent news there, too - keep watching this space!). A big Vinaka Vakalevu and congratulations for showing the way forward in Melanesia!
In brief, this is very much a Fijian initiative.
But, there have been two NGOs who have extended their assistance.
  • Surprise surprise, the simply unrivaled Pew Environment Group's global shark campaign, namely Matt, Jill, Liz and Angelo and probably more members of their team. It's not for me to divulge details of their involvement but I can say that it has been invaluable and will continue to remain so as the legislation is being drafted and then implemented.

  • CORAL The Coral Reef Alliance under the leadership of Rick MacPherson and locally, under the management of our friend Heidi Williams and of several members of her team. CORAL is notorious for getting things done and this project is certainly no exception. Well done!
As always, this is not a done deal quite yet.
The law needs to be approved by Cabinet, drafted and gazetted and then comes the hard part, i.e. the Capacity Building, the Enforcement and at the same time, the Outreach. And there will undoubtedly be backlash, as there always is.

But I am highly optimistic.
I was extremely grateful to read this statement of support by a prominent Tuna fisheries executive. Fiji's Tuna industry is currently being assessed for MSC certification and this statement is certainly an indication of its commitment to sustainability. Well done Russell!
The bycatch argument is of course valid - but there are cheap and nifty solutions that actually result in a win-win for everybody, and my hope is that the legislation will include a provision that caught Sharks must be discarded whether alive or dead, this to avoid creating a convenient loophole.

Anyway, this is a great day for Fiji's Sharks!

5 comments:

Douglas David Seifert said...

Thank you Fiji for showing the world how a small South Pacific nation can assume a leadership role in protecting its marine heritage for its people and the future. The eyes of the world are watching; let us hope Fiji's example can lead the way to a brighter destiny for sharks and for marine conservation. Go Fiji go!

Shark Diver said...

Huzzah!

As always Mike methinks you are being to self-effacing, me also thinks you and your entire team have been working on this for quite a while.

But, without any banners, press releases or Facebook pages to shout your shark glory from the roof tops, these small comments on obscure blogs will have to do.

Well done sir, and to entire extended team.

Go Fiji indeed!

DaShark said...

Thanks Patric!

Seriously, in the big scheme of things this has been the combination of a succession of visionary Fijian governments that have promoted sustainability for a very long time indeed, and of the recent ground swell in favor of Shark protection where Pew have been shining through their pragmatic and science-based policies and assistance.

But it matters not who, exactly, has done exactly what - what matters is that hopefully very soon, Fiji's Sharks will be protected against this totally unsustainable, wasteful and cruel industrial exploitation

The Sharkman said...

I totally agree with SHARK DIVER on every point.

Well done to all those involved.
FIJI leads the way.

VINAKA

(Tiger)Lily said...

HUGE Congrats to Fiji! This is fantastic news - and as an "ex-Fijian/part-time-Fijian" I am very proud to see this happen - Vinaka Vakalevu, and go Fiji go from me too! Lill : )