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Dialogue should do something about fish depletion

AUSTRALIAN Marine researcher John Fairfax said Solomon Islanders are suffering from fish depletion and something needs to be done soon.

Speaking with Island Sun from Munda in Western Province yesterday, Mr Fairfax said the two-day national dialogue towards peace and sustainability sounds good but equally critical is the issue of thinning fish supplies in our waters.

“I think the most important matter to discuss is whether or not island fish supply for island people can be sustained or not.

“Right now today there are people from Rendova Island traveling three hours by 15hp dugout using $500 worth of petrol to go to Noro to buy salt fish that until a year ago was free.

“Getting enough fish today is a worry because the island transport ships are taking Noro salt fish to Honiara, where some of it is even sent to Auki in Malaita,” Mr Faifax revealed yesterday.

The Australian underwater professional who has been documenting the Solomon Islands underwater has been vocal about fish depletion and has raised the issue repeatedly in the media.

He holds a Pro-5000 dive card and has been coming to Solomon Islands since 1973.

Mr Fairfax said there is now scientific evidence of depletion of island fish.

“Look at it. Fishery scientists surely know approximately how many baitfish, or tonnes of baitfish, that were taken to supply pole fishing and seine fishing boats, and scientists can observe the same baitfish fishery no longer exists because the once teeming schools of fish no longer exist.”

He said big fish also depend on small fish, adding that without adequate food, animals do not breed successfully. Fairfax added that stocks of big fish are not regenerating. He said overfishing has impact but is not the sole problem or the problem at all.

“This morning [yesterday] on the way from Rendova to Munda only two seabirds were seen and they were not feeding. The once many flocks of seabirds diving and feeding on fish are no longer seen.

“Reefs fished at night to obtain at least some fish are now almost bare of fish.

“The majority of coral reefs now have mostly dead coral covered with algae. There is no sign of CO2 emission or acidification causing algae to grow.

“Algae depends on nutrient. Evidence of substance indicates world ocean ecosystems are overloaded with nutrient from sewage and land use.  The total load of nutrient sometimes amount to overload and nutrient pollution,” he said.

The underwater professional meanwhile, suggests that solutions include development of sanitation and proper treatment of sewage and that development would generate extensive business and employment.

“Development of sewage and nutrient management infrastructure would have to be managed resourced by the UN and IMF or other international institution. This involves managing the world ocean.”

This paper understands that a communiqué that will feature the commitments towards the implementation of some of the recommendations for sustaining peace and addressing development challenges by leaders and participants will also be compiled after the two days dialogue.