The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) has categorically denied having any knowledge of an alleged harvesting of bech-de-mer on Luangiua as claimed by Dr Reginal Aipia in today’s Solomon Star.
Dr Aipia alleged the House of Chiefs on Luangiua had caught some people who illegally harvested beche-de-mer and selling them to relatives of the Member of Parliament for Malaita Outer Islands Hon. Martin Mokolo Kealoe.
He further alleged that he had written to the Minister of Fisheries Friday last week expressing his disappointment over how the Ministry of Fisheries had handled the issue.
The Director of Fisheries Mr. Edward Honiwala, however, said the Ministry is not aware of any letter from Dr. Aipia addressed to the Minister of Fisheries on Friday.
“Our Minister left Friday for an overseas assignment so he could not be reached to confirm whether he received the letter or not,” he said.
The Ministry is also not aware of any bech-de-mer export in 2016 since the moratorium on bech-de-mer in late 2014 and early 2015.
The Director of Fisheries said the only official complaint received from the Luangiua House of Chiefs was in 2013 against the complainant (Dr Aipia) which the Ministry of Fisheries had responded to resulting in the confiscation of a consignment of bech-de-mer from him back then.
Last week, the Ministry of Fisheries deployed its compliance officers to some selected hot spots in Western, Choiseul, Central, Malaita and Temotu Provinces following reports received from fisheries officers stationed in the provinces that certain individuals have been harvesting bech-de-mer illegally.
Mr Honiwala urged Dr Aipia to make a proper report to the Ministry if he has evidence to prove that certain individuals are harvesting bech-de-mer illegally in Luangiua.
Meanwhile, the Director of Fisheries has reiterated calls to people who are still involved in harvesting of bech-de-mer to stop immediately as the ban is still in force.
Under the amended Fisheries Regulations of 2009, ‘ any person who catches and retains, sells, exposes for sale, exports or is in possession for export, any beche-de-mer commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 4 months or both.