Niue says no to visitors taking uga home
Failed attempts to decrease the number of Coconut crabs being exported from Niue has resulted in an indefinite Government ban on its export.
Failed attempts to decrease the number of coconut crabs being sent out of Niue has resulted in an indefinite Government ban on its export.
Niue's Quarantine department detected around 10,000 coconut crabs were taken out of the country last year, even with temporary seasonal bans in place.
Indira Moala reports.
The declining numbers of the Niuean delicacy known as the 'Uga' has been blamed mostly on its export by visitors and locals travelling to New Zealand. Government research has found that the Uga began being over-exploited soon after the airport opened and the export of the crab by air was made possible. Brendon Pasisi heads the Quarantine department and is also the Director of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. He says the installation of X-ray technology in the airport in the last two years has allowed them to properly detect how many 'Uga are being taken.
BRENDON PASISI: We were able to get a much better assessment of the number of coconut crabs going out. And as of course, the number of flights has now picked up during tourism season now, so the numbers have increased to the point where we now realize that they've exceeded the best sustainable catch limits that we have on the island.
It's the first indefinite ban the Government has ever put in place on the export of 'Uga. Director General of Natural Resources Josie Tamate says the 'Uga is iconic in Niuean culture and although the majority of Niueans live overseas, it is more important to protect the species on the island.
JOSIE TAMATE: It's not a difficult decision if you're thinking about the species itself. Of course we all have our family support who would like to enjoy the Uga but this is something that we need to do to ensure the sustainability of the species.
Mr Pasisi says sustaining the species would retain its cultural value for Niueans.
BRENDON PASISI: It's a very customary sort of practise and traditional sort of practise that we have here in our culture where Niueans like to give. So the Uga or the coconut crab is right up there in terms of its status as something of high value in giving.
Ms Tamate says the export ban is the only conservation method they currently have in place for the Uga.
JOSIE TAMATE: The report that we had indicated that export explains the decline of the population. So we are working on how we could continue to manage it. So at the moment we are plugging that hole where a lot of the numbers have disappeared.
Brendon Pasisi says the Government is working with New Zealand agencies who will assist with policing the issue from their end.
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