Better enforcement on illegal fishing needed in Tonga
The head of Tonga's Fisheries department says they are working to improve the enforcement of illegal fishing laws to try and conserve stocks.
The head of Tonga's Fisheries department says they are working to improve the enforcement of laws on illegal fishing to try and conserve stocks.
Vilimo Fakalolo told Indira Moala poor enforcement in the past has led to a decline in sea organisms.
VILIMO FAKALOLO: We're also working together with the defence patrol boats on the enforcement of our waters and you know that our waters are very big area but we can't do it alone. So we also have some kind of arrangement, like a regional arrangement. Where Tonga and New Zealand and other neighbouring countries to conduct surveillance in our region.
INDIRA MOALA: So that's kind of like an international support system for you guys to help enforce the law?
VF: Yeah, like the New Zealand Royal Airforce and the Australian Royal Airforce. They also have a program of aerial surveillance. But we are working together with them. So we are giving them the number of licensed fishing vessels in the waters. So when they come and do their aerial surveillance, they know exactly the number - the name and the number of foreign fishing vessels that are licensed in the water. So if they can spot any potential illegal fishing vessels they can take the photos and provide all the evidence from that aerial surveillance. We can put them together with the assistance from the FFA and then we can prosecute that illegal fishing vessel.
IM: And how often do you find illegal fishing vessels?
VF: It's believed it's about one in every two years, one in every three years. Not regularly happening - the last one, both parties agreed we'll settle it outside without putting that fishing company into the blacklist on the IUU Fishing. So they pay us half a million pa'anga (US $252,225). I mean this is the first case.
IM: Tongans heavily rely on marine organisms. They feed off them and also they rely on them to make an income. Has their ability to do this been affected very heavily over the years because of the decline of marine organisms?
VF: Yes, yes. I mean in the case of the coastal fisheries, we talked to the fishermen and also the people in the outer islands as to what is the status of their resources. And they clearly identified that the stories are depleted and also, they've been overfished. But if you look at the Tuna resources, it's also happening there. Some communities are moving towards special management areas, protected areas. So we are now working together with some communities.
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