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Fiji Time: 12:16 AM on Saturday 30 August

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Tuna can do minus sharks

Ilaitia Turagabeci
Friday, June 08, 2012

FIJIS tuna industry will not collapse with a shark sanctuary in place, says a senior marine researcher.

Dr Jessica Meeuwig, the University of Western Australias director of Centre for Marine Futures, said the tuna industry should adapt to change to safeguard the marine ecosystem instead of exploiting it.

A co-author of the report the Socio-Economic Value of the Shark-Diving Industry in Fiji Dr Meeuwig said Fiji was lucky it still had sharks in its waters, unlike elsewhere in the world where stocks were being depleted.

Sharks in Fiji are lucky that Fiji will become the largest shark sanctuary in Melanesia, she said.

If the Fiji government approves, it will be a blessing for Fijis future.

Dr Meeuwig said in other areas of the world people catch tuna without catching huge amounts of by-catch.

In the 70s to the 80s, there was a lot of discussion on the dolphins caught by tuna boat operators, she said.

At the time, when we said it must stop, the tuna industry said oh no, the sky is falling.

Eventually they learnt to catch tuna without catching dolphins.

And we know we can catch tuna without sharks.

All tuna boat operators need to do, Dr Meeuwig said, was to change their fishing gear and fish at different depths and locations.

She rejected claims by the tuna industry that the study she was part of was fabricated.

The study, aided by government statistics, found that the shark-diving industry in Fiji generated about $F75million ($US49million) in 2010.

The report that we did is an extremely thorough and robust estimate on the value of shark tourism in Fiji, she said.

We interviewed divers and operators all over Fiji, from the north to the south, and about 300 divers.

We asked them why they visited Fiji and how much money they spent while here.

Combining that with government stats, we came up with the magic number.

Of all divers interviewed, 25 per cent said they visited Fiji to see sharks.


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