The VANFLY Corporation Limited, a joint venture company between the Government of Vanuatu and Flysha Fiji Limited, will soon export its first container of 4.9 tonnes of premium sea cucumber products to Hong Kong.
These products were harvested from sites on the islands of Aneityum, Epi, Emau, Efate, Maskelyne and Ambae from September to December last year, following an assessment conducted by the Department of Fisheries (DoF).
The Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Bio-Security (MALFFB), Matai Seremaiah, Director General (DG) Moses Amos, representatives of VANFLY, Director of the DoF, William Naviti and staff witnessed Ifira Port and Development Service moving the first container of sea cucumber or bêche-de-mer to the wharf ready for shipment on Monday next week.
This was part of yesterday’s official launching of the VANFLY Processing Facility at Salili area.
Minister Seremaiah said during the launching event that for the first time in the history of sea cucumber harvesting in Vanuatu dating back to 1875, a total of Vt2,823,916 dividends will be paid in accordance with the quantity of sea cucumber harvested at each of the sites.
“Vt613,894 will be paid to the Council of Chiefs of the harvest sites,” he said.
“Vt1,227,789 will be paid as community development project trust fund, Vt368,338 to the provincial governments and Vt613,894 to the Fisheries Department.
“These dividends are an addition to the Vt6 million already spent in purchasing of raw products at the harvest sites.”
Sea cucumber is the second most important fisheries export commodity for Vanuatu, after tuna.
For 145 years, the sea cucumber fishery has been pillaged and exploited in the name of fisheries development with very little to no benefits going back to the coastal communities, apart from the license fees and payment made to local sea cucumber fishers, said the minister.
The sea cucumber industry in Vanuatu like other Pacific island countries is referred to as a ‘boom and bust’ where foreign companies fly in with their money and pay fishermen to over harvest sea cucumbers, he stressed.
“For Vanuatu, the depletion rate resulted to a 5-year ban on harvesting and exporting sea cucumber. This was also to allow fishery to recover.
“As a result of the continued bad management of sea cucumber fishery, the government through MALFFB has taken the decision to convince the Council of Ministers (COM) to approve tendering a bid to manage and develop the resource through an incorporated joint venture with the government.”
VANFLY obtained its sea cucumber processing license in September after signing an agreement with the government in May.
According to the VANFLY Representative, Maurice Erasito, Flysha (Fiji) Limited has spent over Vt200million in the investment.
He said the business model applied in Vanuatu is the first of its kind making Vanuatu a leader in the region. Mr Erasito said they are grateful to partner with the government to develop the sea cucumber fishery of Vanuatu.
VANFLY has facilities in Port Vila and Santo.
To date the company has 52 staff, of which 30 are local.