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Solander struggling to keep fish export going

October 10, 2015 8:08 pm

One of the country’s biggest fish exporter is struggling to keep it’s head above water due to the low fish catch within the Fiji waters.

Solander Pacific, which supplies high export grade fish to the US, Japan, Europe and New Zealand has had to take some drastic measures to ensure it stays afloat.

Solander General Manager Radhika Kumar says the company has lost thousands of dollars in the last five years due to low fish catch in the Fiji waters.

Albacore catch alone dropped from 4,100 tonnes in 2010 to 1, 600 tonnes last year.

“2010 was very good fishing – from then it started dropping, dropping and it’s going down – continuing, like – we are now 60 per cent down from 2010. Our catches are 60 per cent down.”

The company owns and operates 12 long-liners, which fish within Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone – six at a time.

Kumar says with the low catch rate, the company has struggled to stay on top of costs and had to lay off 80 seaman last year.

It also had to reduce the number of days the vessels are out at sea.

“Before, we used to have a transfer boat go out and pick the fish from the boats fishing, but now, because there is hardly any fish, we have stopped this operation. So we only have boats fishing for two weeks there and that’s costing us a little bit more by steaming in and out.”

Last month, government assisted the company by allowing it to buy fuel in US dollars as well as without duty.

With bigeye tuna now over fished, yellow fin under threat and skipjack and albacore at sustainable levels, the company wants a measure to be introduced to properly manage our fish stock, especially albacore.

“A catch limit on albacore – if they can put that then Fiji will be allocated something, so there will be no over fishing. There are a lot of IUU boats out there but there is no reports – which is why we are struggling here.”

Provisional data from the Ministry of Fisheries show that Fiji’s annual tuna catch dropped from 14, 396 metric tonnes in 2010 to 9,508 (mt) in 2013.

There is hope that the Tuna Management and Development Plan of 2014 to 2018, the National Plan of Action on IUU Fishing 2014-2018; and
National Strategy for Fiji Fishing Vessels Operating in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction will help conserve and manage our tuna stock.