24 Dec 2003

Fiji government asked to extend fishing licenses

2:13 pm on 24 December 2003

There are calls for the Fiji government to grant an extension to fishing licenses in the face of allegations of bribery and corruption at the fisheries ministry.

Graham Southwick, the managing director of Fiji Fish Marketing, says the licenses run out at the end of this year and a Fisheries ministry committee is currently deciding which companies will be getting them.

He says the industry has concerns about who is on the committee after corruption allegations against three senior members.

And, Mr Southwick says he hopes existing license holders won't have any issues getting a renewal.

"We don't see any problem with that. Part of the tuna management plan that's been endorsed by government specifically notes in there that existing operators are not to be disadvantaged in any way by whatever rules and regulations come forward so we're protected under the tuna management plan that the first priority is to renewals."

Mr Southwick, who has a total of 32 licenses, says the fleet has gone out and will continue to fish but they've asked for an extension of the licenses until an enquiry is held into the allegations.

He says local companies will be going to court if they experience any difficulties.