Students Change the World

King’s College students Finn Ross and Max Lichtenstein are not only attracting attention with their Young Enterprise Scheme project, they are changing the world.

As the NZ Herald reported that holidaying in Fiji earlier this year, Ross convinced the locals at the tiny village of Navivi to take him out fishing. He had all the latest spear fishing gear; the locals had some old nylon line and a lure they would tow and retrieve by hand.

Battling the game fish that lurk around the reefs of Fiji's islands by hand is a painful and less than effective way of angling.

"They showed me their hands and they have got cuts all over them," Ross said. "Every day their hands are just lacerated by the line. They just need a rod or even a glove."

So Ross and mate Max Lichtenstein came up with the idea of collecting Kiwis' unused fishing gear and getting it into the long-suffering hands of needy Fijians.

"We just thought, hang on, all of these New Zealanders with their old stuff they are not using could be put to good use up there," said Ross.

Their charity, Let Them Fish, started as a school project. But after a successful launch the pair believes it has the potential to become an ongoing force for good.

They've placed collection bins at six tackle stores across Auckland and are encouraging fishermen to donate any unwanted tackle.

A first shipment of gear, which Ross took across with him in a bunch of old ski bags on a return trip to Fiji, has already been delivered to grateful locals and is being put to good use.

Collecting the gear may be free but getting it to the islands isn't. Let Them Fish has a website through which people and corporations can make donations - clothing manufacturer Icebreaker was a recent major contributor - but Ross and Max hope to land a long-term corporate sponsor to help cover shipping and administration costs.

Excessive commercial fishing is a major reason many Pacific people who rely on traditional methods are struggling, the pair believe. Providing better gear will help people who rely on fishing feed their families but the charity also preaches conservation.

"If we give them this gear and they are going to go out and kill a lot more fish that is not going to help the fishery," Ross said. "Rather than using nets we only support selective fishing, hooks and spearing, so you only shoot a big fish. The culture up in the islands at the moment is anything you catch you keep.

"If we give them gear to catch one big fish they can feed the family, save time and they are not decreasing the stock." 

For further details visit www.letthemfish.org.nz

Let Them Fish