14 Jul 2004

Fiji's fisheries minister disputes Greenpeace allegations over fishing vessels

4:00 pm on 14 July 2004

Fiji's minister of fisheries, Konisi Yabaki, is disputing allegations by Greenpeace that illegal foreign fishing vessels are visiting Suva harbour.

A Greenpeace campaigner, Pio Manoa, says these vessels are disregarding regional registry compliance and taking advantage of Fiji's ports to get their catches into foreign markets.

But, Mr Yabaki says they're not illegal because only vessels that are fishing in the country's exclusive economic zone have to be licensed and carry monitoring equipment.

He says other flagged vessels, which aren't on the regional registry, can fish on the high seas, and they ARE checked when they come into harbour.

"If they come and unload with us, we will have to go and check the fish stock - so, we actually physically count the fish and get a measure but it is coming in as a cargo and that's where the customs people take over."

Mr Yabaki admits that it is difficult to know whether the captains of the boats are telling the truth about where they've been fishing.

He says it's up to customs to deal with the issue and there's no plans for a ministerial meeting to co-ordinate efforts over the problem.