Solander Seafood - Ocean to Plate

Fiji Fish Cuts Costs – Press Release

The Editor, Fiji Times, 21 May 2008

With reference to the article “Fiji Fish cuts costs” (May 21st, 2008), it is true that there is a considerable disparity between the operating costs of the domestic fishing fleet and the foreign fleet using the port of Suva as a base.

This company uses approximately 2,700,000 litres of diesel per annum (51% of the duty-paid fuel used by the domestic fleet). A recent costing exercise revealed that we would pay $720,000 more for this amount of fuel than would the operators of the foreign fleet who bunker using the International Bunkering Rate. They can do so as they are clearing Customs and fishing outside Fiji’s zone.

The Chinese vessels also receive a rebate up to USD30,000 per annum per vessel from their government for fuel used when fishing outside their zone. The European vessels also receive a fuel subsidy from the EC. Spain recently announced a €30,000,000 subsidy for their vessels fishing outside the EC. Six Spanish vessels discharge their catch in Suva.

The rapidly escalating fuel costs are a serious threat to the domestic fleet, and unless some respite is forthcoming from the Government, then I agree with Mr. Southwick that the domestic fishing fleet will grind to a halt, and the 1,500 or so people that are dependent on those working at Solander for food, shelter, and education will be forced to look elsewhere.

Whilst the domestic fleet pays duty on their inputs such as bait, spare parts and fishing gear, the foreign fleet in many cases does not.

The domestic fleet, whose compliance and operating costs far exceed that of the foreign subsidized fleet; have to compete with them for sea room, wharf space, air freight space, and in the market place.

We are not asking for subsidies, just equity with the foreign fleet, so that we may have some chance of continuing to be an important contributor to Fiji’s economy.

In the twenty years we have operated, we have never aired our concerns in the media; however we now consider the current situation serious enough that public debate may be the only avenue left for us to try in our struggle for a greater understanding of the vicissitudes the domestic fishing industry is currently suffering.

David C. Lucas