With its vast fishing grounds populated by some of the world’s largest tuna stocks, PNG is well-placed to develop a strong on-shore fish processing industry.
More than 10,000 fish species have so far been identified in the waters around PNG, but commercially, the most important is the migratory tuna.
Between 12% and 17% of the world’s tuna is caught in PNG’S 2.4 million square kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone.
With the opening of one massive new cannery, the commencement of construction for another, and more on the drawing board, Lae is set to become the South Pacific’s main fish-processing centre,.
Sylvester Pokajam, outgoing Managing Director of PNG’S National Fisheries Authority, told Business Advantage PNG there will be six processing plants within the next few years, potentially employing 50,000 workers.
Region’s biggest processing centre
The Thailand fishing company, Thai Union, opened the region’s biggest fish-processing centre, Majestic Seafoods, in 2013, which will eventually be able to process 600 tonnes of tuna per day.
Majestic Seafood joins two existing processing plants run by International Food Corporation and Frabelle.
The Chinese-owned Zhoushan Zhenyang Deep-sea Fishing Company plans to build a tuna loin plant to process 250 to 300 metric tonnes per day, employing 3000 local workers.
The Korean firm Dongwon is also seeking to build a tuna loin plant, while Nambawan Seafood, a joint venture between Trans Pacific Journey Corporation, TSP Marine of the Philippines and a Taiwanese company, is also on the drawing board.
In Madang, R D Tuna Canners’ Managing Director Pete Celso says his company expects to double production after opening a second cannery there in early 2014 (see page 17).
But the depletion of fishing stocks continues to be of concern to the industry across the region, after the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Cairns, Australia, at the end of 2013 agreed to reduce the longline bigeye tuna catch by 10 to 30 % for foreign fishing nations. Limits on purse seine fishing will be considered by the WCPFC during 2014.
By contrast, small-scale coastal commercial fishing focuses on prawns, crayfish, barramundi, bêche-de-mer, trochus shells, pearl shell and green snail.