Small Islands Voice Global Forum
Protection for survival: Community action to prevent illegal longline fishing
The subject of illegal foreign fishing around Ascension Island has generated much discussion; here are some responses which favour empowering islanders to take action.
All avenues should be explored and used to stop this madness, writes Foua Toloa from Tokelau (Pacific). In the case of Tokelau, it is not only the longliners, but also the purse seine boats, who fish illegally in our territorial waters, despite the Multilateral Fisheries Treaty Agreement with the United States. We cannot police them. There are so many problems associated with bringing these culprits to justice. For a small island like us we lack the resources. During the boom of the Japanese/Taiwanese longline fisheries based in Pago Pago, American Samoa, in the 1960s - 1970s, they were like ants all over the place. They caused permanent damage to our reefs that will continue far into the future. As a local fisherman it’s painful to accept the suffering from these experiences. These people came and took our fish, they got rich, they ran their boats aground, they left their boats on our reef; then our reefs, fish and shellfish got polluted and we have to figure out some means of cleaning up their mess. It was also during the same period that our local fishermen resorted to what Temakai Tebano suggested - they started cutting these culprits’ lines and breaking their longline glass floats. Two canoes were almost run over by one longliner and our elders (Chiefs) advised against it because of the risk involved. I personally believe that this is the most effective means of stopping these culprits. However, in our case we need a well-equipped speedboat to do it. I would recommend an awareness programme that should target companies, boat owners, national fisheries and all other stakeholders involved in the fishing industry about this problem. The message should be very simple and easy to understand, translated into all known languages of the world and simply say ‘Thou shalt not poach and steal your neighbour’s fish or your fishing gears will sink to the depth of the ocean.’ Adapt this as a universal law for all small island countries and these culprits will have second thoughts about poaching, stealing and damaging our livelihood.
Ken Kingsbury from Cook Islands (Pacific) writes: I have invented many successful things in my life. My instinctive reaction is to go for a ‘win’ solution as regards the islanders. I would create a simple device that enables islanders to take what is rightfully theirs, straight from the long lines, leaving the burglars with their long line but not the fish. This should discourage them, and meanwhile islanders could benefit from their high-tech fishing gear. I would gladly give my time free to devise a system.
I have been reading the responses to this problem of people poaching fish from the waters surrounding a small island, writes Tai Purcell from Samoa (Pacific). In my village of Falealupo in Samoa, fish is the main food and income. There is no employment in my village other than the teachers and about three small businesses. Therefore, our people depend on fish for consumption and sometimes, people from hotels or other businesses will come to the village to buy fish - not very often. Our people recognised a while ago that should they allow other people to come and fish in Falealupo, then gradually there would not be enough to feed their families. So, the Council of Chiefs made a decision that people from other villages would not be allowed to fish in Falealupo. This rule was advertised on the national radio and our village monitors our sea area. This works, but what about the big guys with trawlers stealing the big fish from the ocean, we only have traditional boats. So I think that a good strategy for government is to give the community a means to patrol and chase these big fishing boats from the sea. In the long run, this will empower the local villages to help ensure that these people do not continue to fish and steal from the small islands. This way, the whole community will contribute in preserving and protecting the environment they depend on greatly for survival.
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