Sustainable fishing: 28 maritime students graduate

Josateki Guivalu receives his certificate from WWF-Pacific Sustainable Fisheries and Seafood program manager Duncan Williams during the graduation ceremony. Picture: SUPPLIED/WWF-PACIFIC

Streamlining sustainable fishing practices and applications to up-scaling fisheries workforce knowledge on sustainable practices is one of the main areas of focus for the Deck Hand Fishing Programme at the Fiji Maritime Academy (FMA).

Putting into practice these sustainable fishing practices will be 28 students who graduated from the FMA’s Deck Hand Fishing Programme last week.

The students were part of a one-month intense theory and hands-on training course on basic sea safety, nautical and by-catch knowledge.

The graduates were scholarship recipients of the By-catch and Integrated Ecosystem Management (BIEM) Initiative of the European Union and Government of Sweden, funded by the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) program under the project partnership of FMA, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

WWF-Pacific Sustainable Fisheries and Seafood program manager, Duncan Williams said by-catch was the unintentional catch of non-targeted organisms while fishing for a particular species.

“Bycatch is an ongoing regional issue which poses a reputational risk to the local tuna fishery,” Mr Williams said.

He said it was the organisation’s vision to provide provision of affordable and accessible training for fishing crews on bycatch and the 28 graduates were shining examples of that particular vision.

“The scholarships were funded through an improving uptake of by-catch mitigation measures for species of special interest in the Pacific longline fleet through a port-based extension program,” he said.

“The scholarships and program have given the 28 students that serve in Fiji’s offshore fishing sector the opportunity to better understand issues such as by-catch of protected species of sharks and turtles and gain the skills and best practices to help mitigate the detrimental impacts of fishing to the wider marine ecosystem.”

Fiji National University’s Fiji Maritime Academy (FMA) chief executive officer, Captain Rajitha Semage during the graduation ceremony said Fiji had a demand for trained personnel in the fisheries industry –where a vacuum existed.

“I believe that as graduates our students would be easily absorbed into the workforce by the fishing vessels to work their craft as deck hands,” Capt. Semage said.

“Remember that it is a challenging career as the sea is not for the lighthearted. Through my own observations, it is my belief that if anyone is made for the sea, then it is those from Fiji and the surrounding Pacific Islands nations.

“The sea is embedded in your way of life. It is a part of you.

“To our graduates, go sail the high seas with the knowledge that you have gained through this training. I am sure you will excel in what you do.”

SPREP Bycatch and Integrated Ecosystem Management Initiative contractor Anish Maharaj said the Pacific-European Union Maritime Partnership addressed some of the most serious challenges faced by Pacific countries.

“Among these are the increasing depletion of coastal fisheries resources, the threats to marine biodiversity including negative impacts of climate change and disasters, the uneven contribution of oceanic fisheries to national economic development and the need for improved education and training,” Mr Maharaj said.

“Also there is the need to mainstream a rights-based approach and to promote greater recognition of gender issues to ensure inclusiveness and positive changes for Pacific Island people.”

He said the purpose of the BIEM Initiative was to support Pacific countries to deliver their priorities to reversing the decline of protected marine species.

The initiative is to also improve the health of coastal ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change and to support poverty reduction.

Majority of the graduates had been working in the offshore sector for many years and had returned to complete the program.

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