22 November, 2017, 12:00 am
SEVERAL fisherwomen in the coastal village of Silana in Tailevu received a safety boost to their small commercial fishing enterprises.
This is after the women were given three marine safety grab bags by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to ensure their safety while fishing out at sea.
The handover is a FAO initiative which identifies the importance of fishing for local livelihoods and diets.
Silana Village was identified among 40 other coastal communities that received marine safety grab bags to be used by local, small commercial fishing enterprises registered with the Ministry of Fisheries.
But according to its headman Savenaca Seru, the villagers are now “only fishing close to shore” after the trauma faced after Cyclone Winston.
“We are so grateful to FAO for choosing our village. This is a blessing to us as we are trying to rebuild our lives,” Mr Seru said.
“Our main source of income is whatever we can get from the sea and take to the Nausori Market.
“I am so relieved, because I know this bag will protect our lives. If we are out at sea we are protected because of the quality of the materials inside these bags.”
Each marine safety grab bag contains a personal locator beacon, a strobe light, a signalling mirror and whistle, a rescue laser and sea rescue streamer, a handheld marine VHF radio, a sea anchor, three manually inflatable life jackets, a directional compass, a first aid kit and two thermal emergency blankets.
And with a single fibreglass boat in the village owned by the Silana fisherwomen which is available for hire, the grab bags will also be used by the men of the village to conduct their eco-tourist venture of dolphin watching.
According to FAO fisheries consultant Apisai Sesewa, the recipients of this initiative were licensed ‘in-shore’ commercial fishing groups which were identified by Ministry of Fisheries officers.
“The Turaga-ni-Koro of each village receiving the grab bags will ensure that all licensed fishermen in the community have access to the bag and its contents,” Mr Sesewa said.
Mr Sesewa said the Pacific Community (SPC) had also supported the program and had conducted training for the fisheries officers in the use of the bag’s contents.
“The fisheries officers will assist in the distribution and training the local fishermen and women in the use of the marine safety grab bags,” he said.
“They will continue to liaise with FAO about the ongoing implementation of the program.”
Of the estimated four million vessels operating in the small scale fishing business, about 98 per cent are under 24 metres.
The uncovered vessels used by most Fijian fishermen are not much bigger, at 26 metres, with 16hp outboard motors.
“We hope the need never arises, but these bags save lives. Two Tuvaluan fishermen were rescued after they used the personal locator beacon from their bag.”