The lifting of the ban on the harvesting of sea cucumber will be done with conditions says Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama.
A five-year ban on the harvesting, trade, and consumption of Beche-de-mer was imposed to allow populations to recover.
Bainimarama says the ban was instituted to preserve Fijians long-term food security and socioeconomic wellbeing.
He says now, Fiji is introducing a new management model for the species that sustainably supports the livelihoods of the communities that rely on this important marine resource.
Under the new model, the harvesting of sea cucumber will run from 1st July to 31st August and the processing and export period will run from 1st July to 31st October.
Bainimarama says the harvesting licenses will be issued to the resource or qoliqoli owners as part of the Government’s ongoing measures to encourage the active and meaningful participation of resource owners in our sustainable management approach.
Another condition to lift the ban is that the species of sea cucumber allowed for harvesting will be carefully selected to ensure Fiji keeps within the requirements of international trade.
He stressed that any species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species (CITES) will be banned from harvesting.
The Prime Minister says all traders who wish to be involved in this fishery will also be licensed as this will also help ensure the sustainability of the resource and strengthen monitoring.
The government has also directed the formation of a Licensing Committee to comprise the Permanent Secretaries for Fisheries, Economy, Trade, Environment and the Solicitor-General to select and license the traders and exporters.
The Licensing Committee will advertise an Expression of Interest by next week.
Bainimarama says for the past 400 years, Fiji has allowed the harvesting, trade and consumption of Beche-de-mer while knowing very little about how to culture and breed the species.
He adds to further strengthen the longer-term sustainability of this resource, Fiji will employ scientific best practices to culture and breed sea cucumber with the aim of expanding this model of sustainable aquaculture to other high value fisheries commodities.
Bainimarama stressed this is only one step in a long journey towards a better and bluer Fijian economy.