Poaching (Report #61 - 2012)
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We're almost there! No not the Tuamotus, but the 5 degree S latitude mark. Actually it S 04 degrees 32 minutes and our speed has slowed again. We are currently condemned to that 2 knot status that was preceded by a morning filled with increased winds and rain squalls where we managed to fill nearly two containers of rain water. The crew enjoyed a fresh water bath washing layers of salt residue from bodies accustomed to sea water baths each day. The human species is wonderfully adaptable. Just think of the variety of environments they migrated to during an earlier time period. In those days it was strictly by foot and eventually human ingenuity saw them take to the water in boats not dissimilar to the drua we are living on now.

Our ancestors travelled great distances to establish themselves from north to south and west to east. They endured many natural challenges from inclement weather, to predatory animals, to natural barriers on land and in the seas. Today human challenges are different in mind and degree and often are self-inflicted. Many years ago there was a newspaper based cartoon of political satire called Pogo. Swamp animals represented humans. One animal, Pogo an opossum, says "We have met the enemy and they is us!" How do our people in Fiji meet the environmental enemy and deal with challenges created by illegal fishing in traditional fishing grounds?

Seru Saumakidonu , the "Awesome Guy", hales from Kubulau in Vanua Levu. Being a coastal village, Seru's village elders have had to deal with non-licensed fishermen who sneak in and try to fish there. However his village possesses something that all villages that are trying to stop marine poaching should have. Thanks to PCDF and MORDI Kubulau has a 24 foot Yamaha boat and 60 HP engine that doubles as a pursuit vessel intercepting those illegal fishermen.

Once stopped the fishing gear, the fishing boat and catch are confiscated and the fishermen "invited" back to the village for a cooling off period. Seru reports the fishermen are hosted to an all night yaqona session before they are free to return home minus their gear. If they want it returned they would have to pay a fine.

Enforcement of strict in shore and pelagic fishing practices requires "sharks with teeth". People quickly learn when they can "get away" with something and they walk that fine line to the limit. On Saturdays we can see this in action as there are those sellers that offer undersized catch from lobsters to qari and from certain species of fish. As long as people pay for the small ones and there is no one there to police limits this practice will continue until such time as none are left available to sell.

So it's not just the big companies that are causing the demise of marine stocks, it's also us!

"We have looked in the mirror and the most dangerous staring back is us!" Tabu soro viti

We look forward to our return in June.