The Principal Fisheries Officer from the Niue Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) will be at Auckland International Airport on 23 December to see first-hand the support that New Zealand biosecurity officers from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) are providing to the important work of enforcing a ban on the exportation of uga (coconut crab) from Niue.
Uga are a culturally and nutritionally important resource of Niue and were previously a popular export for Niuean's travelling, or returning, to New Zealand. This was mainly driven by the large number of Niuean's living in New Zealand (23,883 in 2013) and their demand for uga which remains a sought-after traditional delicacy.
Following a decision by the Niuean Cabinet earlier this year to ban the export of uga, New Zealand biosecurity officers started checking passengers from Niue for uga to help support to this important sustainability initiative in Niue.
The monitoring of outgoing baggage by DAFF fisheries officers in Niue during 2014 showed that between 8,000 and 10,000 individual uga were being taken off the island annually through Hanan International Airport by passengers travelling, or returning, to Auckland. This number was extremely high for the small Pacific nation, especially as the population of Niue is less than 1,500. In addition to this, a biological survey completed at the end of 2014 found that the size of uga on Niue has decreased and the number of breeding females and mature males are very low. This confirms that passengers bringing uga back to New Zealand is having a direct effect on the uga population, which is now struggling.
In an effort to try and bring uga harvest rates back to sustainable levels, in January 2015, the Niue Cabinet placed a prohibition on the export of uga. This ban was later extended and it is now illegal for any person to export uga, either whole or part of, alive or dead from Niue.
“We have a close relationship with our Pacific neighbours from Niue and have been working with their DAFF fisheries staff through the Pacific Fisheries Management and Development Programme,” says Gary Orr, Manager Compliance Operations at MPI."
“We started inspections at the New Zealand border to support the work they are doing at the Niuean border to save the population of the uga on Niue whilst maintaining our high standards of biosecurity inspections.”
MPI staff at the New Zealand border undertake robust and thorough inspections to prevent the introduction of unwanted pests and diseases in to New Zealand.