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High possibility of Beche-de-mer smuggling in common border: Honiwala

There is a high possibility that people from Bougainville will try to smuggle beche-de-mer (BDM) into the country, says the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) director Edward Honiwala.

Beche-de-mer destined for overseas once confiscated by MFMR. Photo: MFMR

The director made this statement after the Royal Solomon Islands Force (RSIPF) spotted 20 Bougainvilleans within the Solomon territorial waters at the common border between Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea (PNG) early this week.

Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau yesterday told journalists that 20 people crossed the border to fish and dive sea cucumber when they were intercepted by RSIPF officers.

Director Honiawala said the PNG BDM fishery is currently closed after it opened early last year.

As such, Honiwala said Bougainvilleans would try to make their way into the country to sell their product to buyers or exporters, especially in the Western Solomons.

“We were not aware of the report of the 20 people, we were only aware that a boat tries to come in, so we assume they will try to enter the country with BDM from PNG because it is still close there.

“So, they may try their ways to come in and sell their beche-de-mer product in our country. There is a high possibility that people from Bougainville will smuggle BDM into the country,” Honiwala told SIBC News in an interview.

He added, this is an issue that the Police, Immigration and MFMR to address. Any product from outside will be confiscated under Customs law.

“Anyone who does this violates or breaches our Customs and Immigration laws, so immigration must deal with it,” Honiawala said.

He stressed, people must report to the Police if they see this because it is illegal.

The Fisheries director said the fisheries ministry has advised Police and Immigration that beche-de-mer is still closed in Papua New Guinea.

Yesterday, Police Commissioner said when RSIPF officers approached the boat with 20 people, one of the Bougainvillean picked up a spear gun and intended to shoot at the police officers

“While our police officers approached them, they talked to them kindly, the Bougainvilleans later realised that they were wrong and they peacefully left the island,” Mr Mangau said.

Mr Mangau added that on another occasion, there was a banana boat that left Bougainville (Arawa Bovo River) at around 2 and 3pm on September 14, 2021 believed to be Bougainvilleans and Solomon Islanders.

“Those people on the boat might be interested in buying beche de mer, and they should be in Choiseul or Vela la Vela or Kolobangara Island,’ said Commissioner Mangau.

However, the MFMR director ruled this out, saying that could not be possible because the BDM fishery is currently closed in PNG.

The MFMR has lifted the beche-de-mer ban, reopening the harvest period for a year, starting September 1, 2021.

The ministry advised interested Beche-de-mer (BDM) operators, exporters, fishermen, fisherwomen and the general public that the BDM Fishery ban will be revoked and effective on 1st September 2021 to 1st September 2022.

by Jared Koli

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