Turtle Dehooking targets bycatch best practices



Posted on 06 April 2014  | 
Learning how to remove hooks from a turtle caught as bycatch on a longline fishing vessel
© WWF South PacificEnlarge
Conservation efforts have stepped up a notch following efforts to create awareness for turtle protection was extended to Fiji’s long line fishing industry.

Twenty nine participants from the fishing and fisheries fraternity were part of a one day workshop that sought to highlight issues related to turtle de-hooking and by-catch best practices in the Fiji fishing industry.

Of the twenty nine participants, three were resource persons, six from companies from the two industry associations (Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association (FTBOA) and the Fiji Offshore Fisheries Association (FOFA)) as well as people from the Fiji Environment Law Association (FELA), WWF-South Pacific and the Department of Fisheries.

WWF-South Pacific’s Offshore Fisheries Program Co-ordinator and workshop organiser, SeremaiaTuqiri, said one of the main objectives of the training workshop was to strengthen turtle by-catch best practices in Fiji’s tuna ling-line fishing industry which would in turn help in the conservation of our dwindling turtle numbers.

One of the issues the training focused on was the national legislations and regional and international policies and guidelines relevant to turtle by-catch and by-catch best practice.

Kiji Vakaloloma, the coordinator of the Environmental Law Association, gave an overview of the Offshore Fisheries Management Decree 2012 and for turtle conservation purposes touched on the Fisheries Act 1942, and the Fisheries (Protection of Turtles) (Amendment) Regulations 2010.

Vakaloloma said the Offshore Fisheries Management Decree 2012 was an enabling legislation in that it obligated the government to take note and enable the implementation of its various legislations.

Furthermore the Decree allowed for the set-up of the Off-shore Fisheries Advisory Council to advise the relevant minster on policy matters relating to conservation, which is a major boost for conservation agencies like WWF-South Pacific.

Tom Mayo, a vessel captain from Solander (Pacific) Limited , a Fijian long line fishing company said legislation issues discussed at the workshop went “in-depth” and were very relevant for masters, mates and vessel managers present.

“The workshop was required by the fishing industry so as to comply with our MSC certification, and we all appreciated WWF-South Pacific’s work in arranging the venue and speakers,” Mayo said.

“It was all we had hoped for and the feedback from all of the staff that attended was positive,” he added.

There have also being calls for more such training to be held so that more crew members from the fishing industry are better equipped on policies and regulations about by-catch issues in Fiji.

Maciu Lagibalavu, a representative from Golden Ocean Fish Ltd praised WWF-SP for the training workshop and especially the fact that crew members from the fishing industry were part of it.

“It is important that crew members from the fishing industry take part in such trainings because at the end of the day they will be the ones who will be dealing directly with such issues such as turtle de-hooking and by-catch,” Lagibalavu said.

“The workshop was refreshing in that in my experience there are too many meetings discussing the need to conserve, but less practical sessions to go about doing what has to be done when coming
across the case.”

Participants were also given a run-down of the turtle’s life cycle and why it was important to protect this marine species and they also participated in a turtle de-hooking demonstration training.

WWF-South Pacific Marine Species Program Coordinator Laitia Tamata said this was the first time they had conducted such a training workshop, but it was evident from the questions asked and the trainee participation, that the participants were able to grasp the messages that was being put across to them.

“Those that were present got the message behind the sessions and would serve as good messengers across to their colleagues along the offshore”, Tamata said.

He was especially pleased with the interest shown in the turtle de-hooking training as this would help save turtles caught as by-catches by long-line fishing vessels.

Tuqiri hoped there would be similar training workshops in the future to cater for the fishing companies that were unable to participate.

“We would like to see this continue, and this is something that we can collaborate with fisheries stakeholders on particularly the hands on training on turtle de-hooking and awareness on fisheries related legislation's and other instruments that govern the conduct of fishing domestically and in the Western and Central Pacific region,” Tuqiri said.

“We’re keen to see this sort of training on by-catch best practice continue because the end result is that we will have a cadre of informed crew and management personnel,”

“Having this kind of training also provides an opportunity to network and encourages greater understanding and insight for those not involved directly in everyday fishing activity.”

Ends...
Learning how to remove hooks from a turtle caught as bycatch on a longline fishing vessel
© WWF South Pacific Enlarge
Solander Pacific Limited Fishing Operations Manager Thomas Mayo jots down what he had learnt from the workshop
© WWF South Pacific Enlarge
Simulating dehooking a turtle caught on a long line, participants at the turtle dehooking workshop for crew, and owners of the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association in October 2013
© WWF South Pacific Enlarge
Turtle dehooking knowledge expert Merewalesi Laveti and workshop facilitator Seremaia Tuqiri from WWF South Pacific Offshore Fisheries Programme
© WWF South Pacific Enlarge

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