By RONALD TOITO’ONA, Pacificmedia@WCPFC13
Controversial ‘blue boats’ owned by Vietnam and other Asian countries might be poaching in the Solomon seas unnoticed or untraced, says officials from the Ministry of Fisheries attending the WCPFC13.
The ‘blue boats’ are small wooden fishing boats that do not have permission to fish in the Pacific’s territorial waters.
Vietnamese is the most prolific source of blue boats. Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia have made multiple arrests but even burning the culprit’s boats does not stop them coming back.
Director General of the FFA James Movick told a media briefing this week that there are sightings of the ‘blue boats’ in Australia, PNG and as far as New Caledonia.
“We think because they are getting through to New Caledonia there is a high possibility, strong possibility that they are also in the Solomons and Vanuatu,” Movick said.
“We have to make that assumption for planning purposes so because these are coming into your 12-mile zone they are typically not part of FFA’s mandate.”
Blue boats are hard to see with radar and do not carry transponders so they are difficult to for authorities to detect.
Vu Duyen Hai, head of the Vietnamese Delegation at the WCPFC13 told journlaists there are more than 100,000 fishing boats in Vietnam. Many of these would be blue boats, most of which fish along Vietnam’s coast.
When asked about the ‘blue boat’ issue yesterday, the Under Secretary (Technical) of the Fisheries Ministry Ferral Lasi said, the Solomon Islands has no record of the boats sighting in recent times.
“For us, there are high penalties for such illegal fishing under the country’s law and it comes under the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU).
“Under the country’s law, it involves very huge fines – round about millions of dollars.
“So definitely, there is no question about that. Our position on the ‘blue boat’ issue is very clear as member to the FFA and PNA,” Mr Lasi commented.
He added, now that the ‘blue boats’ are an issue in the region, there is a need for the country to step up its patrol in the Roncador and Indispensable reefs.
Roncador Reef is south of Ontong Java Atoll, and the Indispensable Reefs can be found in Rennell, Temotu, Anuta, and the eastern Solomon Seas.
DG Movick this week also said that, FFA as a regional agency has recognised that they have a responsibility and there is an opportunity for them to use the regional platforms and mechanisms that they have in order to support those countries to better monitor and survey any possible blue boat activities.
“So we are planning to bring together those parties that are currently being affected sometime in the first quarter of next year in order to discuss this strategy,” the FFA Director General told the Pacific Media.
Meanwhile, PNA Chief Executive Officer Ludwig Kumoru in a media dialogue last week said, if they spot these boats in the PNA waters they will destroy them immediately – a tough stand that PNA is looking to take in effectively.