Illegally harvested BDM destroyed as gov’t sends clear message to lawbreakers

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The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources this afternoon destroyed 500kg of illegally harvested beche-de-mer, (BDM), mostly under-size, as it sends a clear message that illegally harvested BDM will be destroyed.

Compliance fisheries officers one by one dumped the BMD into the fire as it burnt to ashes at the Fisheries headquarters at Kukum.

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The confiscated BDM came in all sorts of containers and other storage bags before they were destroyed today.

At the same time the PS of Fisheries Dr. Christian Ramofafia warned that with the degree of unsustainable harvest, it would take between seven to eight years before BDM stock fully recovers.

The decision to burn the BDM was sanctioned by the Attorney General’s Office and further approval was granted by the Cabinet.

Director of Fisheries Edward Honiwala told the media that the 500kg of BDM was confiscated between 2020-2021 and they were of different species. They were taken from individuals and companies.

He further explains that data from the confiscated products shown that 68% were of undersize or have not reached mature sizes and about only 32% of mature and legal sizes.

Honiwala further added that as shown in previous data sets, the majority of the confiscated products were of low value BDM species.

“This is an indication that high value species were no longer found in the many places, so people have no option but to fish low value species,” he said.

Honiwala further explained that it is important that the people know that BDM stocks are now fished down and if this continues, this fishery will collapse soon.

“We don’t want to drive this important fishery down that path,” he said.

Honiwala said the ban or closure period is to give the BDM stocks time to recover, with the current level of the over-fishing and low density around the country, the closure period should be longer than five years.

“So the strong advice for everyone is to refrain from illegal harvesting as any BDM products confiscated from you will be destroyed,” warns Honiwala.

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Prohibition of harvest and sale of BDM

Under prohibition order 22 of the Fisheries Management Act 2015, fishing or possession of any species of BDM from Fisheries waters is prohibited, effective from 31 May 2019.

Further to that, export of any species of BDM is prohibited effective from 30  June 2019.

“With the above prohibition, and during the closure of the BDM fishery, no one is allowed to fish or have their possession or export any species of BDM,” said Honiwala.

Meanwhile he said the BDM data held by the Ministry shows that the BDM stocks are currently heavily over-harvested and fished down to very unsustainable levels.

He pointed out that from the last opening October 2018-May 2019, export data obtained by the Ministry had shown that more than 80% of the products were of under size and only less than 30% were mature (legal) sizes.

He said this is a clear indication that over harvesting is occurring and the BDM stocks have been heavily exploited.

Honiwala further stated that the trend over the years also show that majority of the exported BDM products are low value species in the last two recent openings.

He added that there is strong evidence that majority of the BDM products exported in the past two openings were undersize.

“In the last surveys, data collected have shown clearly very low density per hectare for all sea cucumber species. This is an indication of over-harvest,” said the director.

For the first time the ministry has opened its doors for the media to see first hand the destruction of the BDM.

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