Tuna fisheries are the main source of employment in PNG. (Photo:dci.gov.pg)
A new strategy to foster tuna processing industry
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Wednesday, May 18, 2011, 22:20 (GMT + 9)
Papua New Guinea (PNG) has a plan to become a leading global fish processor by attracting business and jobs that have gone to other Asian canneries. PNG's National Fishery Authority Managing Director Sylvester Pokajam is committed to improving the country’s standing in the fish processing sector.
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), made up of eight tuna-rich Pacific Island nations including PNG, have had a hard time reeling in jobs.
“We are looking at the fishery within the PNA of about 1.2 million tonnes that are sustainably harvested every year,” Pokajam said. “We want to also extend our call to the Pacific especially the PNA countries, to earn more from their resources rather than just relying on the access fees so we try to develop in that area to see how we can all work as one group to benefit together.”
He added that most of the new investment is going to Morobe Province in PNG, where the governor is supportive out of a desire to create jobs. Morobe’s town of Lae, for example, is ideal for development, he told Radio Australia.
“Lae has everything. It got basic infrastructure: water, power, wharf facilities. People are available to be employed so this is more or less the centre for PNG,” Pokajam commented during an interview with Jemima Garrett.
In the past decade, fish processing has become a major employer in PNG, where the total allowable catch (TAC) for tuna is 500,000 tonnes a year. Fish processing has swelled mainly because of the duty-free and quota-free access PNG gets for the European market, thanks to its interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
The managing director believes in 10 years there will be even more jobs in PNG.
“This is a sustainable industry and the jobs will remain forever,” he asserted.
Pokajam hopes the tuna sector offers 30,000 people direct positions and 100,000 workers indirect jobs.
But much of the tuna caught near PNG is still canned elsewhere. PNG plans to fight back by setting up processing facilities that will draw business.
“We still have to fish out there in the Pacific Ocean in the PNA waters. That same fish is now going to Thailand and the US, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, whatever, but that is going to change,” Pokajam explained.
“When you put more processing plant in PNG that fish will then come to PNG and someone is going to suffer … it’s going to be the canneries in Asia, mainly Bangkok and Thailand,” he added.
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By Natalia Real