PNG losing billions in fisheries

Papua New Guinea is yet to get value for the tuna resource that it has, an official says.

National Fisheries Authority (NFA) deputy managing director Ludwig Kumoru estimated that the country loses about K1.7 billion (US$633 million) annually when tuna caught in PNG waters were being sold and processed overseas.

Speaking during a panel discussion recently, he said on average, 550,000 metric tonnes of tuna were being caught annually in PNG waters adding that it would worth about K2 billion (US$745 million)

However, he said currently, the country was only making about K300 million (US$111 million) on exporting of raw tuna.

“But if we are to process that fish, we will triple that amount.”

He said more fish processing plants needed to be built in PNG for the country to actually reap benefits off the marine resource.

“When we start pursuing these processing plants and make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do, make sure they process what they have stated then we will start to see the importance of tuna.”

European Union Delegation head of political, press and information section Cristobal Munoz said it was estimated that PNG loses about K65 million (US$24 million) per year due to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in PNG waters.

Cultural Anthropologist (Pacific Maritime Industrial Zone PMIZ) Dr Nancy Sullivan added saying: “That money is escaping from our waters while we speak. It’s being processed in other countries.

“After they (other countries) have destroyed their own stock by overfishing, they come in.

“We just don’t have enough people out there in the high waters. We get these vessels from other countries that have absolutely nothing at stake for us, no interest in our welfare, no interest in paying us well, no interest in providing infrastructure,” she said.

Meanwhile, PNG is yet to capitalise on all its fishery resources, a marine expert says.

Maritime law expert Camillus Narokobi said the country was only concentrating on getting value for the tuna resource that we have.

“We forget the inland fishery and other sectors of the fishery sector. We have not capitalised on all the resources of the fisheries sector in the country. We are just concentrating on tuna,” he said during a panel discussion in Port Moresby recently.

However, National Fisheries Authority deputy managing director Ludwig Kumoru said the country could earn more than what it was now earning from its tuna resources which were being sold and processed offshore.

“We haven’t reached half of the potential (of tuna) yet.” He said about 15 per cent of the world’s tuna live in PNG waters.

“The biggest of the world’s tuna is in Papua New Guinea.”

Kumoru said factors affecting that included infrastructure like proper wharves, factories and the need to develop feed to feed the fish so as to maximise on potential the country’s fishery sector has.

“We need to develop feed so that we are able to feed the fish. And we need to develop cheaper feed … those are the issues we need to address.”

Meanwhile, National Agricultural Research Institute director general Sergie Bang said, among other feeds, the institute was doing research on developing feeds for inland fish ponds using local ingredients.

“The research has now included layer chickens, pigs and inland pond fish.

“Our research focus is on development of low-cost feeding systems based on making more effective use of local feed resources and agro-industrial byproducts to reduce feed cost for smallholder semi-commercial and commercial livestock farmers who are our primary target group,” he said.

In another development, the ban on harvest of sea cucumber in the country calls for Papua New Guinea to develop the aquaculture or farming of aquatic animals for protein and income, the National Fisheries Authority official says.

Aquaculture and Inland Fisheries executive manager Jacob Wani said unlike other countries PNG does not have a tradition of farming fish.

He said the concept was new to the country and pointed out that PNG lacked the technical skills and capacity.

Wani refuted an earlier comment that the National Fisheries Authority was focusing more on tuna and not the other fisheries.

He explained that the country needs revenue from the tuna fisheries to develop alternate fisheries for local fishers.

“The closure on sea cucumber harvest is because of decline in stock, this highlights the need for aquaculture.

“Aquaculture is farming of aquatic organisms in water is significant for our people’s food and for income.

“Fish farming is mainly for food security, a lot of people had the misconception that there is a lot of money to be made from inland fish farming, which is not.

“NFA has realised that and is working on a number of programmes.

“We are working with the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research.

“There’s a programme for training NFA staff in Port Moresby and then also looking at equipping provincial staff as well, we are looking at introducing aquaculture curriculum into the fisheries colleague, to upgrade farmers’ skills, to upgrade provincial officers’ skills,” he said.



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