MATU COMMUNITY REOPENS FISHING GROUNDS AFTER 3 YEARS

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Matu Community in Santa Cruz Temotu Province has reopened its fishing ground on Sunday 26th September 2021 after a fishing ban was imposed three years ago.

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The ban was made effective and enforced by Matu Fisheries Committee (a community-based body) together with the community House of Chiefs in 2018 for a complete stop on fishing activities including collecting of Sea Shells. The ban also includes dumping of non-biodegradable materials in restricted areas which cover over 800 meters from the village westward along the coastline and from the shoreline to areas that divers can reach in width of the restricted areas.

In an interview with the Paramount Chief of the Matu community Mr. Alfred Tata, he said this is the second time the fishing grounds have been banned.

“The first time we banned our fishing grounds was from 1997 to 2000. “Compared to the recent banning, the first one was not this successful because at that time we do not have any bylaws integrated with marine regulations to safeguard the ban,” Tata said.

He said during the ban, they have imposed penalties for those that are caught breaking the bylaws. “Whoever that is caught breaking these bylaws will be fined $1,000 and $50 for disposing of nonbiodegradable materials.

“We have managed to catch people who break laws and paid the imposed fines,” the paramount chief said.

The ban was imposed to ensure marine lives which are becoming endangered can regenerate within these 3 years. Not only to sustain the present generation but also to map out a manageable and sustainable way to the future where marine resources can be sustainable for the future generations.

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“To avoid future bans, the village fisheries committee is currently working on new regulations which will be finalized once an official consultation is done with the fisheries divisions and the community.

“This is to come up with new bylaws to manage fishing activities to avoid over-harvesting and under harvesting,” Tata said.

During the 3 years ban period a 600-meter coastline fishing ground eastward from the community was allocated as an access area where villagers can hunt for marine proteins to sustain themselves and as a source of income. Two dump pits were also dug in both ends of the village where people can dump wastes to avoid being fined.

Tata said the people are very satisfied with the ban and they are happy to reap its benefits. “With the recent reopening of Bech-de-mer ban, the people are very happy because they won’t find it hard to harvest the first-grade sea cucumbers as they used to.

“Fishing for other marine resources is now easier more than ever and I think the people deserved it after the 3 years,” he said.

The reopening, however, is still under strict monitoring as people are only allowed to harvest what to sustain their families, for marketing and during village ceremonies. Also, a 200 meter is still banned and reserved for Honiara-based community members and students who are still away from home and will be opened during the Christmas period in December.

The lifting of the ban was marked with a feasting ceremony on Sunday 26th attracting more than 500 people from the catchment communities and fishing activities were officially declared by chiefs with a traditional ceremony and conch shell blowing to signal fishermen and divers to commence fishing at 9 am Monday 27th September 2021. Meanwhile, Paramount Tata said they are looking forward to the drafting and finalization of the new bylaws to regulate sustainable fishing activities soon.

ISHMAEL NELSON AMEO

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