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Papua New Guinea

Sea cucumbers continue to create chaos

A bêche-de-mer ban in Papua New Guinea is forcing Bougainville people to cross the Solomon Islands border to dive and trade products for money.

The royal Solomon Islands police force is manning the border between Bougainville – an autonomous region of PNG – and the Solomon Islands.

Patrols have intercepted 20 people that crossed the narrow border to fish and dive sea cucumber in recent weeks.

The Solomon Islands government has imposed travel restrictions entering from Bougainville due to the rise of Covid-19 under the state of public emergency.

This is part of the government’s policy to prevent the country from the spread of Covid-19 and to keep the economy afloat.

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Director of Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Edward Honiwala, has not ruled out fishers or divers from Bougainville crossing the border to trade bêche-de-mer because of the ban imposed by PNG government.

Honiwala said the ministry expects this kind of illegal crossing to happen in the Solomon Islands because of the bêche-de-mer ban.

“At this time of Covid 19, the Bougainvilleans will be forced to look for money,” Mr Honiwala said.

“As such, I don’t rule out any crossing from the Bougainvilleans through our borders.”

The ministry also claimed the lifting of the bêche-de-mer ban is to support people’s livelihoods during the pandemic and to improve a dwindling economy.

However, the ministry said despite the ban, people wanting to cross the Solomon Islands must comply with Covid-19 restrictions.

A check with Gizo police in Western Province and Taro police in the province of Choiseul province on any new reports of illegal crossing by Bougainvilleans.

Both stations have reported no new updates on the crossing.

“Currently, we don’t get any reports from the police officers manning the border,” one of the officers at Taro Police Station said.

“It means the activity has slowed down.”

A police officer at Gizo said most customers, who sold their bêche-de-mer products to buyers in the township, are mainly local in the nearby villages.

The officer said there is no citing of anyone from Bougainville coming to Gizo to sell the bêche-de-mer products.

On that other hand, the lifting of the ban of the seafood delicacy by the Solomon Islands government last month has already cost a number of people their lives in the rural parts of the country as a result of crocodile attacks.

Reports confirmed a father of three on the far west of Shortland Islands was the third and latest victim to die from crocodiles.

The incident took place at the Sanai Island, opposite Ballalae Airport.

The Solomon Star reported this as the second incident to happen in Western Province following the first incident at the Roviana Lagoon last month.

The second life was also claimed by a crocodile, in the Russell Islands, Central province.

The man was in the company of another diver when the father-of-three met his fate.

Initial reports said that he was diving while his children were holding their out-trigger canoe.

The reports said that after he had surfaced, the diver instantly dropped down back to the bottom of the sea bed. He never came back up again.

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