A nation-wide temporary ban has been imposed on coconut crab harvesting, to allow the Department of Fisheries (DoF) to address gaps in the management plan and ensure sustainability of the fishery activity.

Issues such as over-exploitation and over-harvesting has led to the temporary ban, said the Acting Manager of the DoF’s Policy Division, Christopher Author.

“Under the Fisheries Act, coconut crab is a designated fishery.

“It is important to the economy, therefore it requires a management plan to guide the forms of strategies and measures for development and sustainability,” he said.

“The plan sets out the harvest quota by area/island, licensing system and size limits. The licensing system provides the required minimum buying price for a licensed buyer.

“Gaps that need addressing include over-harvesting and over-exploitation. Harvesting of under-size and inequality in harvesting .

“Also, there are illegal sales outside the harvesting season. We found out that people are harvesting a lot of parent crabs. If this continues, it’s likely that we will have smaller number of juvenile crabs in the future.

“Our government system and communication, including enforcement are other challenges. Communities are concerned that we as officers are also at fault.

“Communities have also shared concerns on finding alternatives for income.”

Acting Manager Author said they are looking at shifting coconut crab closed season, increasing the minimum buying price and incorporating traditional knowledge in fisheries management.

Following the ban, the DoF will be working with communities to find other alternative income support, particularly in Torres Islands, said Author.

The order for the coconut crab ban harvesting is expected to be uplift end of next month, he added.

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