THE $500,000 budget allocation for the inaugural national Reef Enrichment Initiative campaign is a good start, but the authorities need to give some serious thought to the continuing damage inflicted on the tuna industry, Fiji Fish Marketing Group Limited said.
Managing director Grahame Southwick's comment follows the launch of the REI by the Fisheries Department in Tailevu last week.
He said poor fishery management decisions were the primary cause of ruin to the industry particularly the decision to ignore the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's recommendations in 2002 on the number of licences for the Fiji Exclusive Economic Zone, and thus allow excessive fishing for 10 years.
"The decision to increase the allowable catch in Fiji waters from 10,000 tonnes per annum to 15,000 tonnes per annum because there was big demand for licences, in spite of all the evidence concerning overfishing, and then to use that as an excuse to issue yet more licences is compounding the problem," Mr Southwick said.
Allowing the unfettered direct trans-shipment of fish landed in Fiji by foreign vessels for two years resulted in all Fiji processors being starved of raw material and loss of jobs, he said
"Fortunately in this instance, the government eventually stepped in and imposed a levy that brought raw material and jobs back into the Fiji processors but not before substantial damage was done to the industry," Mr Southwick said.