Fish­eries' sus­tain­abil­ity chal­lenge

PNG has the Pa­cific's most pro­duc­tive fish­ing zone and has made great ad­vances in on­shore pro­cess­ing in re­cent years. Sus­tain­abil­ity re­mains a chal­lenge, how­ever.

Business Advantage Papua New Guinea - - Fisheries -

The largest sec­tor within Pa­pua New Guinea’s fish­ing in­dus­try is the catch­ing and pro­cess­ing of tuna, although in­land river fish­eries, aqua­cul­ture and reef fish­eries are also sig­nif­i­cant.

Be­tween 10% and 20% of the world’s tuna catch is caught in PNG wa­ters, with catches of up to 580,000 tonnes per year. The PNG fish­eries zone of 2.4 mil­lion square kilo­me­tres is the largest in the South Pa­cific.

The Pa­cific Tuna Fo­rum es­ti­mates that the value of the an­nual tuna catch in PNG is about US$1.3 bil­lion, which could dou­ble to US$2.7 bil­lion if the in­dus­try ex­plored more val­ueadded ac­tiv­i­ties.

There has al­ready been sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in the on­shore pro­cess­ing of tuna in PNG, cre­at­ing thou­sands of new jobs. There are now six tuna can­ner­ies in PNG, mostly in Lae, the big­gest of which is Ma­jes­tic Union, run by the Thai­land fish­ing com­pany, Thai Union.

R D Tuna Can­ners was the coun­try’s first in­te­grated tuna fish­ing and tuna can­nery com­pany, based in Madang, and em­ploys about 3500 work­ers. Man­ag­ing Direc­tor Pete Celso, who is also Chair­man of the PNG Fish­ing In­dus­tries As­so­ci­a­tion, says ex­ports make up 63% of com­pany sales.

EU mar­ket

Driv­ing much of the ex­pan­sion of on­shore pro­cess­ing is the Euro­pean Union (EU), which has an In­terim Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment with PNG that al­lows for tar­iff-free im­ports.

How­ever, in June 2014 the EU is­sued what it calls a ‘yel­low card’ to PNG be­cause it is fail­ing to en­sure the sus­tain­abil­ity of tuna fish­ing in its wa­ters, af­ter more than 720,000 tonnes was caught in 2012, well above the max­i­mum sus­tain­able yield of 500,000 tonnes es­ti­mated by PNG’S Na­tional Fish­eries Author­ity.

Mon­i­tor­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties of for­eign fleets is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult and the gov­ern­ment has in­creased sur­veil­lance.

Fish­ing stocks

The in­dus­try is also con­cerned that il­le­gal fish­ing and new con­trols will cause over-fish­ing and there­fore stock de­ple­tion.

The Par­ties to the Nauru Agree­ment, which gov­erns the ex­ploita­tion of re­gion’s fish­ing grounds, have in­tro­duced the Ves­sel Day Scheme, which lim­its the num­ber of fish­ing days, which are then al­lo­cated by coun­try and sold to the high­est bid­der.

Pete Celso says the scheme has been some­what coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. He says the in­crease in fees has meant boats are catch­ing twice a day, and the av­er­age size of the fish is get­ting smaller and smaller.

Pro­fes­sor Glenn Hurry, the out­go­ing ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the West­ern and Cen­tral Pa­cific Fish­eries Com­mis­sion, says stocks of yel­lowfin, big­eye and bluefin tuna have all been re­duced.

Celso sug­gests that fish­ing in a coun­try’s eco­nomic zone be al­lowed only by com­pa­nies that op­er­ate can­ner­ies, thus adding so­cio-eco­nomic value to fish­ing na­tions, such as Pa­pua New Guinea.

Celso is also con­cerned at the ‘dump­ing’ of canned tuna, caught in PNG wa­ters, by Thai, In­done­sian, Viet­namese and Chi­nese can­nery com­pa­nies.

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