The Vanuatu-flagged fishing vessel, Essien No. 108, is free to fish in the new year.

The vessel was under threat of being blacklisted by the Western and Central Pacific Fishing Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Nadi, Fiji last week for illegally fishing in Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) a year ago.

But the boat was cleared from the list for blacklisting by the meeting after the Cook Islands intervened to inform the meeting it was satisfied with steps taken by Vanuatu to resolve the matter.

“The Essien No. 108 was not in the list when the meeting came to Agenda 13 on Friday to discuss the list of boats for blacklisting and the vessel had already been cleared from the list on Thursday,” Manager Compliance of the Department of Fisheries, William Naviti, who was head of the two-man Vanuatu delegation to the WCPFC’s 13th regular meeting confirmed.

He also confirmed the Vanuatu government was happy with the decision. Naviti said the operators and owners of the boat were also happy that the Essien No. 108 was not blacklisted “because it means that in the new year they can continue to fish.”

The Vanuatu government paid a fine of $US186,000 (about Vt20 million) to the Cook Islands government three days before the WCPFC meeting opened the its boat’s illegal fishing in the Cook Islands EEZ on December 8, 9 and 10, 2015. Then Cook Islands completed the process of removing its complaint against Vanuatu and cleared the vessel from the blacklist threat.

The Essien No. 108 is a longliner belonging to Belegaer Fishing Company Limited in Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).

Vanuatu has 112 fishing boats registered to fish under its flag in oceans around the world including four purse seines and 70 longliners, Naviti confirmed.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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