A GROUP of stakeholders was yesterday reminded of the importance of protecting the hemp-headed wrasse, a fish species that is becoming extinct.
Speaking at the meeting of fisheries stakeholders in Labasa, Divisional fisheries officer North Joji Vakawaletabua said the support and co-operation from stakeholders would help protect the endangered species.
The hemp-headed wrasse is known as the varivoce or draudrau among the iTaukei community.
"Catching this particular species has been banned and anyone caught fishing the wrasse can be penalised $20,000 on the first occasion and $100,000 or imprisonment for five years on the second occasion. We need the fish company owners and fishermen to always check and ensure that they don't sell, among other fish, the wrasse," Mr Vakawaletabua said.
He said there were cases, where fishermen accidentally caught the wrasse in their nets.
"In those kinds of cases where we have had some fishermen come to our office to give us back the fish, we take it to the Babasiga Ashram for the residents to have. We have also brought together these stakeholders to discuss other issues that will help all of us work better together to protect our marine resources in the North."
The meeting discussed marketing issues and the protection of reefs around the division.