VILLAGERS in Bua's Lekutu district have requested the Fisheries Department to pay fish wardens — who are doing the duties on a voluntary basis — in safeguarding their fishing grounds.
Speaking at the recent district council meeting on Taveya Island, Galoa Village headman Simione Makosoi said most fish wardens did not take their work seriously because they were not paid.
Mr Makosoi said poaching was a real problem within the district and if the department wanted wardens to assist them in their work, then they must be paid.
Responding to the concerns, Nabouwalu fisheries officer Tomasi Cama said fish wardens were known as honorary wardens.
"The Fisheries Department does not have funding to cater for their wages," he said.
"However, the proceeds of fisheries-related cases committed within fishing grounds go back to these fish wardens to cater for their expenses.
"At the same time, fish wardens have the same powers as fisheries officers to enforce part of the laws under the Fisheries Act."
Mr Cama said fish wardens were empowered to seize proceeds and equipment of poachers.
"These fish wardens also do great work in ensuring their own fishing grounds are not poached or overfished and that it is sufficient for the needs of their own people."