PNG Fisheries: A gold mine of the Pacific.

I may not be a fishermen, but I provide a great service for the local fishermen in the area, by providing a market for them to sell their catch”.

Wesley Pialkolos is an electrical engineer cum fishing entrepreneur in the New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea.

What he does each day is buy fresh fish from the fishermen around the island of New Hanover and Kavieng, to sell to hotels in Port Moresby and other parts of the country. And because he has a freezer that he purchased himself, and also pays for the shipping of fish, lobsters and crabs, he provides a great service to the locals.

Mr. Pialkolos is one of many Papua New Guinean’s who have seen the potential of the fishing industry and have ventured into this sector in order to make money and also relieve the stress faced by local fishermen to find markets.

Local fish markets. Image by Dhammika.

The Fishing industry in PNG remains highly underdeveloped, within the country’s 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone, which covers an area of 2.4 million square kilometers and provides a livelihood for 15 maritime provinces of the 20 provinces in PNG.

Current legislation’s by the National Government only caters for the management of commercial and industrial fisheries, whilst subsistence and artisanal fisheries involving the majority of Papua New Guinean’s remains largely unregulated, unmanaged and unsupported.

Previously artisanal fishing was the major economy for locals, as emphasis was placed on barter system, until the cash economy took over.

The National Government than realizing how lucrative the industry was, set up the National Fisheries Authority to manage the sector, especially including the locals, which saw the establishment of the Coastal Fisheries Stations, which provided refrigeration units and shipment of fish to the markets, however, this slowly died out, because it was heavily subsidized and also public servants did not fully understand the dynamics of the rural communities.

Tuna stocks a lucrative resource on the Asian market. Image by Little Joe.

The Government took it upon themselves to develop this industry. PNG waters holds approximately one-fifth of the tuna stock of the entire Pacific, were total catch amounts to 10 percent of the global catch, were sustainable harvest is about 250,000 tonnes a year.

Fishery exports from PNG include fresh, frozen and canned tuna, prawns, lobster and shark meat, and the potential exists for the fisheries industry to make a huge contribution to the national economy, both in terms of exports and domestic food supply.

In 2002, the total value of fishery-related exports rose by 20 percent to a record £34 million.

Chilled tuna is exported mainly to Australia and Japan, frozen tuna to the Philippines, Japan and Taiwan, and canned tuna to the United States and European markets.

A major breakthrough came when PNG was granted duty-free access to the huge tuna market of the European Union at an Asia Caribbean Pacific-European Union (ACP-EU) meeting last year.

Tuna for overseas markets. Image by Imperfect Escape.

Previously, duty-free access had been denied because the tuna were caught and processed by non-ACP and EU companies. PNG applied successfully to the EU for tuna caught in the waters of the archipelago to be treated as being of PNG origin, thus enabling its processed tuna to be exported to the EU duty free.

The scope for making fisheries a major component of the export drive in the wake of the ACP-EU decision is enormous, and is expected to boost export earnings from tuna to £40 million this year.

The high-value yellow fin and big-eye tuna they catch currently earn around K30 million (£5 million) per annum in the Japanese sashimi market, with potential for considerable growth. Domestic vessels have also been increasingly targeting shark.

There are a number of international and regional treaties and agreements that PNG has
ventured into which include;

  1. Torres Strait Treaty

  2. US Multi-lateral Treaty.

  3. FSM Agreement.

  4. Nauru Agreement.

  5. Niue Treaty.

  6. Palau Agreement.

However, this year PNG pulled out of the US multi lateral treaty, in which the PNG Governmet says they will not renew US license to fish in PNG waters when it expires in 2013.

This comes about due to the fact that for the last 22 years the US has been fishing in Pacific waters, were Pacific Island countries only received a mere 2 million US dollars a year in return for allowing the US to fish without limit, catching in excess of 500,000 metric tonnes of fish, worth around 2 billion US dollars in finish fish products each year, which meant we were being cheated off our natural resource.

We can safely say that the PNG Fisheries sector is a gold mine in itself that is slowly developing. With this in mind, how do you think you can take part in this growing industry?

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