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Code Blue for our reefs: Using the regional tuna MCS to nab the reef robbers

Reef pillaging by Vietnamese Blue Boats seeking lucrative returns from beche de mer harvesting is being picked up under oceanic fisheries surveillance networks. As FFA’s Director James Movick told Pacific fisheries and legal officials at a joint workshop with SPC on May 1 and 2, reef pillaging is more than a blatant criminal act, but has tragic environmental impacts.

The crimes against Pacific nations and devastating impacts to reef species and bio-diversity from Vietnamese Blue Boats takes more than beche de mer from our waters. These violations appear to be escalating and spreading to more Pacific nations as the boats deplete targeted species in one area and move on to the next reef, without regard for territorial borders and maritime boundaries.

Moreover, the illegal harvesting of valuable species such as beche de mer (BDM) essentially robs these economic opportunities from local harvesters and their increased sale on the market is likely to depress prices that legal harvesters and traders are likely to receive.

The deadly damage from harvesting also brings in the threat of invasive species through bilge water or other carriage by the boat and crew. Affected countries so far, covering half the FFA members and New Caledonia, has met with sympathy from the full membership and other metropolitan countries with all keen to step up extra-regional surveillance and intelligence capacity to try to better spot, track and apprehend these boats.

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