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Fiji's Tuna Industry under Threat

FIJI - Fiji's tuna fishing industry is near to collapse and the Tuna Boat Owners Association have called on the government to step in to help.

Four fishing boats have reportedly been repossessed because the fishermen could not keep up the repayments.

And radio and tv reports on Radio Australia's Pacific Beat and TVNZ and others have reported the president of the Tuna Boat Owners Association Grahame Southwick saying that the number of tuna fishing ships in Fiji had shrunk from 110 three years ago to just 22 this year.

High oil prices have been cited as the main culprit, but the boat owners are also concerned about over fishing from foreign vessels and a weak US economy.

"The real culprits are the Chinese and EU fleets, that are state-sponsored, state-supported ... the whole strategy by all these countries is to support their offshore fleets until the local fleets collapse, which is exactly what is happening," Mr Southwick said on broadcasts.

"The EU and China, they support their boats down here with fuel subsidies, ship building subsidies (and) cheap or interest-free loans. This is all stuff we don't get."