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Tuna rescue deal

Dawn Gibson
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

THE government has responded to the distressing pleas of tuna fishing companies in the country following news of the industry's near-collapse earlier this month.

Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association (FTBOA) president Grahame Southwick told this newspaper that the association received a direct verbal offer regarding a proposed Industry Stabilisation Plan which would contain measures which would hopefully assist the industry.

"The government has responded to the desperate situation facing the Fiji tuna industry, with an offer directly from the Prime Minister's Office," Mr Southwick said in a statement yesterday.

"The briefing, although only verbal at this time, contained a number of proposed measures that would assist the industry."

Mr Southwick said it was important to understand that the association was still yet to get written confirmation of the proposal.

"We are awaiting the written details so there is no confusion. We will obviously study the offer deeply and analyse what it could mean to the industry's survival chances.

"The challenge we all face now is how to deal with the real and most damaging aspect of the problem - the gross over fishing by foreign, highly subsidised vessels which are plaguing the region."

Solander Pacific Limited general manager Radhika Kumar said she thought the plan was a good start to help relieve pressure on the industry.

"They came verbally and had a meeting with us and it was good, I think they've done some good.

"They have confirmed on the number of licences and various other things and so some of these things will be implemented straight away and some we will have to make sure are implemented."

Hangton Pacific Limited general manager Jitendra Mohan said a committee was set up by the government to assess all issues brought forth by stakeholders.

"And we have just been informed that the Prime Minister agreed to all the recommendations which should augur well for stabilisation of the industry.

"But the real deal is, when the fish catches and market prices will improve, both these conditions are beyond government's control."

Fisheries Minister Lieutenant Colonel Inia Seruiratu told this newspaper the government was working on numerous ways to get the industry out of the rut, saying they had to control issues that were within Fiji's influence.

"We have listened to the concerns of the stakeholders and we are looking at ways we can assist them. We've been having a series of meetings with the industry stakeholders last year and in December because of the critical situation that we are in."

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