The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources said an article recently published by the Solomon Star Newspaper titled “Secret Reveals” dated 19th July 2022 is not only misleading but lacked credibility.
In the article, the author alleged that beche-de-mer fishery in Solomon Islands is open for harvesting all year round with no “on-and-off” season thus questioning the legality of Regulations 13A of the Fisheries (Amendment) Regulations 2009 and whether it is still valid after the repealing of the Fisheries Regulations 1972.
In its response, the MFMR described the article as misleading and may lead to confusion and doubts among fishermen and fisherwomen involving in harvesting and selling of beche-de-mer during this open season.
“As the responsible ministry mandated to look after the country’s fisheries and marine resources we are concerned this kind of article will give a wrong message to our people,” the Ministry of Fisheries said.
The article had highlighted an appeal matter of Chen Zhen Co. Limited v Iomea, which questioned whether Regulations 13A of the Fisheries (Amendment) Regulations 2009 remain in force after the repealing of the Fisheries Regulations 1972.
Regulations 13A provides:
“A person who catches and retains, sells, exposes for sale, exports or is in possession for export, any beche-de-mer commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $100,000.00 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 4 months, or both.”
Regulations 13A prohibits any person to catch and retain, sells, exposes for sale, exports or in possession for export any beche-de-mer. If any person who found to be in breach of the Regulations will be fine $100,000.00 or less or can be imprisoned to a term not more than 4 months, or can be both.
The Court of Appeal found that Regulations 13A has been repealed since the Fisheries (Amendment) Regulations 2009 which amended the Fisheries Regulations 1972 was repealed.
In clarifying this confusion, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources said the repealing of the Regulations 13A does not remove the power of the MFMR to control and manage beche-de-mer fishery which is governed by the Fisheries Management Act 2015 of Solomon Islands.
According to Section 22(2) read together with Subsections (3) (a)(i) and (b) of the Fisheries Management Act 2015, it provides that the Director of Fisheries may prohibit any fishing activities (including harvesting of beche-de-mer) by way of Order in the Gazette.
“The Director of Fisheries may prohibit fishing or possession of such fish (beche-de-mer) for specified period from any specified area of fisheries waters,” it said in the statement.
In addition to that, landing, buying, selling, receiving, possession or export of fish or of fish included in a specified class of fish can be also prohibited.
“This gives the power to the Director of Fisheries to prohibit fishing activities of beche-de-mer for a certain period of time. During that time, there will be no harvesting, buying, selling, receiving, in possession or export of beche-de-mer. The Director of Fisheries has the power to revoke the prohibition activities by way of Order in the Gazette,” the Ministry of Fisheries said.
To further shed light on the issue, Section 2 of the Fisheries Management Act “fish” is defined as any water-dwelling aquatic or marine animal or plant, alive or dead, and includes their eggs, spawn, spat and juvenile stages, and any of their parts. This includes beche-de-mer of all kinds and species in the fisheries waters.
“As responsible ministry, the MFMR has imposed control and management of beche-de-mer fishery in Solomon Islands. By this time, the beche-de-mer fishery is open for harvesting, buying, selling, receiving, in possession or export by way of Order in the Gazette as of 1st September 2021 and the specified period is for a year.
“The harvesting, buying, selling, receiving, in possession or export of beche-de-mer is soon to be closed by way of Order in the Gazette published in 1st September 2021 that will be effective in 1st September 2022. Any activities with regards to beche-de-mer must be prohibited as of 1st September 2022, the Ministry of Fisheries said.