CONCERNS have been raised by the Naviti Tikina Council in Yasawa about the increasing number of fishing poachers entering restricted fishing grounds.
Council representative Isikeli Mulase said most of the protected or taboo areas had been abused by poachers, prompting the council to find ways to stop the increasing cases of illegal fishing.
He said the council had appointed 14 villagers in the district to be trained as fish wardens by the Fisheries Department.
"The 14 men selected were trained by professional divers at a nearby resort as a means of improving their diving skills," said Mr Mulase.
"These divers are professionals and they have certified licences to use some underwater breathing apparatus (UBA).
"Once these villagers have completed all the necessary training we will invite the Fisheries Department to conduct courses to further train our fish wardens.
"Over the past few years, we have witnessed fishermen who have fishing licences to fish in the Ba and Lautoka waters encroach onto our fishing grounds.
"And it is disappointing that some of these poachers are targeting areas that are under tabu or protected areas."
Principal Fisheries Officer Western Alivereti Senikau confirmed they had received requests for assistance from Naviti.
"Our officers will be deployed to conduct a week-long course at Naviti mainly to educate the wardens on their job descriptions," said Mr Senikau.
"Last year, we issued more than 100 certificates to fishing wardens in the West mainly to guard their fishing grounds from poachers."
Global Vision International country manager Daniel Lund said poaching was a difficult issue to address because perpetrators focused on the quick and easy money available from a practice that, in many cases, seriously damaged marine ecosystems and ultimately weakened the marine environment on which many people relied on for daily sustenance.
"Greater awareness on sustainable fishing practices and better enforcement of protected areas is the only way to cut down on poaching," Mr Lund said.
"The more villages are aware of the long term damage poachers do to their reefs, the more effort there will be to prevent the continuation of a practice that involves quick profits at the expense of reef health and overall fish stocks."