The Fisheries office on Kiritmati Island was first opened in the late 1970’s where it first operated at Banana village during the days when coming to this remote island was more often by chartered aeroplanes than ships. It then moved to Ronton Village in order to be near to Ronton port in the early 1990’s when the shipping means of transport was now more than often regular. The current location the new office building had just been recently opened in April 2105 by the Minister for Line and Phoenix Islands Development after been in office at the old British army storage warehouse for more than 20 years which is just next to it. The office is currently manned by a senior fisheries officer, a fisheries assistant, a fisheries technician, 3 handymen, an account officer, a security guard and a cleaner.
The major Objectives of the Sub-Division are to:
- Carry out and disseminate the work programs of the Fisheries Division on Kiritimati Island and with extension to Tabuaeran and Teraina islands and work closely with Licensing& Enforcement Unit on offshore fisheries related matters which includes also the Kiribati National Observer program;
- It also involves with research and survey activities, data collection, diversification of fisheries aquaculture development and post-harvest practices;
- Ensure near-shore fisheries resources on Kiritimati Island are utilized sustainably through diversification;
- Assist with FADs deployment, promotion of appropriate fishing gear, improve the livelihood of fishing communities;
- Provide collaborative technical support to island Councils for management and conservation concerns;
- Coordinate repair and maintenance of neighboring island Council ice plants and other services useful to prevent coastal fisheries resources from being over-exploited;
- Work collaboratively with Fisheries Division at Tanaea and LCD at MFMRD Headquarters in Bairiki towards sustainable fishing practices etc;
- Expected to address the need of the general public on Kiritimati and neighbouring outer islands and to implement and monitor projects to enhance and ensure the local people’s livelihood and food security;
- Patrolling and monitoring of poaching to Fisheries milkfish ponds, fisheries conservation areas, issuing of pleasure fishing permits and fisheries quarantine services at Cassidy airport;
- Enforcement of Fisheries (Protection of Bonefish on Kiritimati) Regulations 2008;
- Assist with the patrolling our EEZ by having access to daily VMS snapshots from VMS officer in Tarawa.
Division’s work focus:
The Fisheries in Kiritimati focuses on developing projects and engaging in activities that promote sustainable use of our marine resources and at the same time offers opportunities for economic developments. This includes the exporting of marine pet-fishes and other marine resources at a sustainable rate. Issuing out of bonefish permits and personal consignment excess charges on specifically identified marine species.
- Patrolling and monitoring of fishing fisheries ponds,
- Enforcement of Bonefish regulation by regularly patrolling lagoon and fishers not to catch bonefish,
- Monitoring the aquarium trade on live finfish by counting the number of flames angles fishes at airport,
- Monitoring of fly fishers coming to Kiritimati by issuing permits at airport,
- Fisheries quarantine services and charges for access on personal consignment for specific marine species, lobsters, milkfish, tuna, reef fishes etc.
- Boarding clearance of incoming/outgoing foreign fishing vessels and for monitoring of transhipment activities,
- Coordinating observer placements for Kiritimati Observer working under national observer program,
- Monitoring of seaweed revitalization farms,
- Minor maintenance to fish-ponds i.e. repairing of damaged dykes and channels.
- Annually visitation to Tabuaeran and Teraina to discuss fisheries related issues.
New Focus (for the next four years):
The Fisheries Kiritimati new focuses for the next four years may look at making Ronton port as a central-hub for the tuna long-long fishing vessels which usually do a lot of fishing in the Line Islands EEZ. These vessels could land their catches and then semi-processed for exporting. In doing this it will also develop the fisheries milkfish ponds to supply small size milkfish for use as long-line bait. Other fisheries related industries like the aquarium fish trade will also be benefited by this as when there are more flights coming in for exporting of the finish product, they could also be included in allowing them space to send live their petfish and pay the airfreight costs. The current problem now faced by petfish exporters is the limit export space on FijiAirways.
As with the pleasure fishing, research conducted to find the number of fly fishers to arrive weekly that will prevent adverse effects on the industry and also to look at possibilities of setting up Blue Ocean pleasure fishing as an alternative on Kiritmati as good timing with the increase in tuna transhipping activities at Ronton port.
FAO Technical Consultant recommendations;
- Restoration of normal and suitable aquatic ecosystem in the historic and dying 34km2 Conservation Area in Kiritimati;
- Repair and maintenance of all concrete gate systems by replacing the permanently-stacked/piled stones in-between walls of concrete gates with conventional control structures using durable screens and slabs to resume hydraulics of tidal flow:
- Allow normal water exchanges to deepen the large ponds and widen the very shallow watershed;
- Provide screens to prevent entrance of big predators but allowing small larvae of finfishes to replenish and augment the old, thin and emaciated milkfish stocks, New seawater will improve water quality parameters, nourishment and primary productivity;
- Pen and net-cage milkfish monoculture are recommended to ward off inside-the- pond predation;
- Declare close and open season in the Area to prevent indiscriminate harvesting and
- Provide round the clock security.
The seaweed farming on Kiritmati and Tabuaeran need to focus more on creating markets and marketing of the dried seaweed since shipping to these parts are not regular. Training local farmers on how to establish cottage industries from seaweed products that could be consumed locally or exported if quality control measures are met would be able to lessen the problem of marketing already stalled large quantities of seaweed. Eventually it will also assist in producing higher quality dried seaweed