Steps are being taken to put an end to the decades-old pillaging of BVI fish by international industrial fishing companies who mainly sweep BVI waters at night.
For years it has been stated that the approximately 200 nautical miles fishing zone of the Territory has been found to be fertile grounds for industrial fishers especially those originating from Asian countries who illegally fish in territorial waters. Now the matter is stopping this illegal fishing is being focused on by newly appointed Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Hon. Vincent Wheatley.
While speaking on the 11 April Umoja program Hon. Wheatley announced that the Territory is currently carrying out “Marine Survey for Spatial Planning” that will project information on its water resources. The Minister noted that fishing is a key part of the planned economic development aspects and that an inventory of the marine resources is key.
“We are now going through our development and it is very important if we are going to build new economies it is important that we utilize our resources,” he said noting that fishing is a worthwhile economic activity.
However, the Minister mentioned that BVI fisher persons are not the main beneficiaries of the Territory’s marine gifts as industrial fishers from Asia have been known to scoop up BVI fish illegally. Hon. Wheatley said: “In our waters we have what is called an economic fishing zone so people can fish in our waters so the Chinese come in and they fish in our waters at night and take the fish out.”
In order to capitalize on the marine resources and benefit more from the fishing sector the Minister noted the ongoing Marine survey: “We are trying to move to an economic exclusive zone. That’s a whole new degree of freedom of economic activity. In order to achieve that fully we have to understand what the resources are in our waters,” he explained.
Hon. Wheatley further noted that at a later stage the Territory will have to show competency in managing, enforcing and patrolling. “Once we can do that then we are moving to a truly economic zone and this way action starts. That whole thing begins with knowing what there and this survey is going to inform us.”
The situation of illegal fishing is not just a BVI problem as the matter was even addressed at the United Nations level with a suggestion that the problem should be addressed by a global coalition.
Countries such as Senegal as a means of dealing with the illegal fishing problem resorted to implementing sanctions against vessels caught illegally fishing its waters. These vessels were also impounded and fined hefty sums. In fact, it was mentioned that the vessels of repeat offenders were confiscated.