At whose interest?

Beche-de-mer ban to be lifted, validity status of ban questioned


By Gary Hatigeva

SOURCES within the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources have revealed that the ban on the harvesting of beche-de-mer will be lifted on November 18 (next month) for an indefinite period.

Sources told Island Sun that the government had agreed through a unanimous cabinet decision to re-open the harvesting of sea cucumber, a move that is said to have put pressure on the Ministry despite certain legal issues.

The decision was also something that is being heavily criticised by the mass, an intention that is also said to be done for political point scoring.

This according to our sources is also a move that is said to be done only to serve the interests of politicians and their cohorts, but not the country.

Records have proven that a sea product like the beche-de-mer, apart from fish (tuna), could have created major boosts in the national economy, but it has never been the case as the matter has deeply been politicised.

The government through a similar move lifted its ban on the sea cucumber last year and later closed it early this year.

Unfortunately, following the re-imposing of the ban, a lot of arrests and confiscations of products were made with claims of illegal harvesting, which also resulted in harvesters and buyers ended up in court.

However, people familiar with the ongoing beche-de-mer saga that made headlines recently, are questioning whether there is actually a ban in place, referring to a decision from the Court of Appeal, which ruled it (ban) to be invalid.

The Court of Appeal recently ruled on a Civil Appeal Case No.13 2018 belonging to a group of harvesters and buyers, whom the state took to court over allegations of illegal harvesting before the government through in a lift status on its ban for the product.

The group was said to have been harvesting and buying various species of the sea cucumber during a period when the ban was still in place, which is said to have constituted a contravention of section 13 of the Fisheries Regulation 2009, resulted in the seizer of their beche-de-mer products.

In the original court decision was laid, the Fisheries Regulation 1972 was used to determine the legality status of the harvest, which was later challenged on the grounds that it is a goner section that had already been repealed and should have not been used.

Following months of deliberations and hearings, the earlier decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal, making the ban invalid, which then sparks the question, as to whether enforcing or maintaining the ban would have been illegal from the authority’s part, knowing that the courts have laid a void status on it’.

“What’s there to lift when Regulations that were used to prosecute the case have already been repealed?” sources questioned.

The Court of Appeal has over two weeks ago, ruled that the ban was invalid and the judgement from on the appeal case the earlier ruling was wrong, and legal people spoken to said it is presumably an error from the ministry and government to impose a ban and therefore suggested that no bans at this stage is valid and ban on harvesting should can be questionable.

“The government through the ministry can come in the form of regulating on the licensing aspect and monitoring, but not to put legal status on whether or not this sea product should be harvested,” sources suggested.

Meanwhile, ministry officials are also concerned that despite advises of a low stock in the sea cucumber, the government went on to pressure for the ban to be lifted, which also puts into place another question, whether the government was aware of the ruling by the Court of Appeal on this.

“Or are they just being too ignorant towards the face of our judicial system?”

The government was also criticised for allegedly using the beche-de-mer issue as another means for their campaign strategy, and the people especially, harvesters are warned not to be tricked into the understanding that the government is doing this for the people, because the intention is not genuine.

Politicians have also been warned not to get their hands on the beche-de-mer issue and allow for the right procedures and regulations to be applied, so to protect the potential unsustainable harvesting of the sea cucumber, which according to officials, is still at its low for the country.

“Stop politicising the beche-de-mer issue and allow for it to be done in a manner that has always been, which was to help our people, whose resources are continuously being ripped for little financial benefits,” a frustrated harvester expressed.

The beche-de-mer issue was also making headlines all over most of the local online forums, attracting wide debates, and this latest revelation has got most of the members to suggest for a longterm ban on the product.

They suggested that the government through the Fisheries Ministry, should ensure the legal complications are sorted out, so to allow for the continuous banning of the sea cucumber to allow for its stock to grow.

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