Fisheries Officer Apisai Sesewa explains the imporatnace of wearing a life jacket. (L-R) Aoisai Sesewa, Milika Lewaika, Vani Vakaloloma, Sainimili Toga and Sisislia Bose. Photo:SUPPLIED
On Wednesday 8th November, safety of life at sea improved for the fisherwomen of Silana Village, Tailevu, when the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) donated three Marine Safety Grab Bags for their use.
Local fishermen and women venture out to sea in small, uncovered vessels day and night to earn a living, and feed their communities.
The FAO initiative identifies the importance of fishing for local livelihoods and diets. It also recognises that fishing is the most dangerous of all occupations, with an estimated 24,000 fatalities (ILO 1999), worldwide.
Silana Village is one of the 40 coastal communities that are receiving Marine Safety Grab Bags from FAO, to be used by local, small commercial fishing enterprises registered with the Ministry of Fisheries.
“The recipient licensed ‘in-shore’ commercial fishing groups have been identified by Ministry of Fisheries officers. The Turaga-ni-Koro of each village receiving the Grab Bags will ensure that all licenced fishermen in the community have access to the bag and its contents,” said Mr Apisai Sesewa, FAO Fisheries Consultant.
Mr Sesewa said that each bag contains a personal locator beacon, a strobe light, a signaling mirror and whistle, a rescue laser and sea rescue streamer, a handheld marine VHF radio, a sea anchor, three manually inflatable life jackets, a directional compass, a first aid kit and two thermal emergency blankets.
He said the Pacific Community (SPC) supports the programme, and has conducted training for the Fisheries officers in the use of the bag’s contents. The Fisheries officers will assist in the distribution and training the local fishermen and women in the use of the Marine Safety Grab Bags.
“The Fisheries officers will continue to liaise with FAO about the ongoing implementation of the programme,” he said.
Silana Village Headman, Mr Savenaca Seru, said that the people in his village were still traumatised after Cyclone Winston and only fished close to shore.
“We are so grateful to FAO for choosing our village. This is a blessing to us as we are trying to rebuild our lives. Our main source of income is whatever we can get from the sea and take to the Nausori market. I am so relieved, because I know this bag will protect our lives. If we are out at sea we are protected because of the quality of the stuff inside these bags,” said Mr Seru.
The Silana women own the village’s only fibreglass boat, but it is available for hire. The Grab Bags will also be used by the men of the village to conduct their Eco-tourist venture of dolphin watching.
Of the estimated 4 million vessels operating in the small scale fishing business, about 98% are under 24 metres. The uncovered vessels used by most Fijian fishermen are not much bigger, at 26 metres, with 16hp outboard motors.
“We hope the need never arises, but these bags save lives. Two Tuvaluan fishermen were rescued after they used the Personal Locator Beacon from their bag,” said Mr Sesewa.