Maritime academy graduates pioneer bycatch graduates
This is a first for Fiji, where a maritime academy has graduated students who have been upskilled in bycatch training. Such training was previously learnt on board fishing vessels.
Today’s graduation was a culmination of one month intense training by the students on basic safety, nautical knowledge and bycatch knowledge.
FMA chief executive officer, Mahesa Abeynayake in presenting the certificates, challenged the graduates to live up to the academy’s motto of ‘Honour through Discipline’.
“It’s very rare to witness a first batch graduation of any programme for the academy. You are all making history today and I am proud to see this. This partnership began years ago with discussions with WWF on introducing bycatch to our curriculum and through many meetings and documents signed, we are here.”
“Your lecturers have given you the sea knowledge, but you need discipline and attitude if you are to survive or make it in this industry. You have a long journey ahead but we are always here to guide you and all you need is to come see us. Congratulations on being the first history-making batch for this revamped programme,” highlighted Abeynayake.
For the 28 students, obtaining their certificate in Deck Hand Fishing will greatly assist them in pursuing a career in offshore fisheries.
“The programme was interesting. For the bycatch component, we had little knowledge. But we now know what bycatch is and what a byproduct is. We are thankful for our lecturers and WWF though the NZ Government for giving us the chance for a better life,” said graduate Shivnesh Sami.
“The issue on bycatch stood out for me as I had no knowledge on bycatch. The training was intense but has prepared us well in terms of what to expect in this industry,” highlighted graduate Senirosi Railalae.
“The certificate I have received today lays the ground work for me to pursue a career in the maritime industry. I have also managed to broaden my knowledge. For instance, previously I didn’t know sharks were a bycatch species. I thought it was a byproduct. But now I have been upskilled in terms of what to do when we encounter bycatch out on the high seas,” added graduate Waisea Tuwai.
The revamped Deck Hand Fishing Programme with the addition of the bycatch module was made possible with funding by the New Zealand Government through it's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), that is coordinated through WWF New Zealand and facilitated by WWF Pacific through its 'Developing Sustainable and Responsible Tuna Longline Fisheries in Fiji’ project. Tuition only scholarships have also been awarded under the project to 48 students.
The bycatch module that was developed provides the fisheries bycatch component to the current Deck Hand Fishing and Offshore Skipper Fishing programmes being taught at the academy.
According to FMA’s Principal Lecturer, Nautical Science, Captain Tevita Robanakadavu, graduates selected for the Offshore Fishing Skipper programme will join a fishing vessel for twelve months sea time before enrolling for two semesters at FMA.
Captain Robanakadavu added that some of the graduates of the Deck Hand Fishing programme will have to undergo 24 months sea time before enrolling for the Near Coastal Fishing Skipper programme.
“We are excited and now will be waiting for the respective stakeholders in the industry to contact us for placements and so we will just have to wait and see,” added graduate Sailasa Baleiyaro.