World tuna capital


Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority (NFA) is eying a move into the private sector to enable it to realise its potential of earning about K1 billion (US$285 million) kina compared to the K600-K800 million (US$171- US$228 million it is turning over annually.

NFA chairman Ango Wangatau said if they are allowed to operate freely as a private company in the commercial space, they can achieve the full earning potential of the fishery sector and turn PNG into the tuna capital of the world.

Wangatau told this paper that the way in which the industry is going to develop is not by imposing laws and regulations, it can operate in a commercial space.

“We have the market in EU.

NFA is the certifying authority for EU, so any product that is produced in PNG we have an accessible market… As in business, you look for the resource and the market but we have the market but for successive governments we haven’t done it.”

He said despite the country’s fisheries Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 2.4 million square kilometres which supply about 18 per cent of the world’s tuna catch, and revenue collected between K600 to K800 million on average, most of these revenues are received from foreign vessels that pay access fees and take fish offshore for processing.

“However, these yields fall below PNG’s real potential to become a world leader in supplying fisheries products particularly tuna.

“The plan intends to work toward realising the full potential of the sector to deliver on the Government’s goal of growing the economy.

“Among the critical impediments is the inadequacy of onshore processing facilities, especially for coastal fisheries.

Millions of kina in revenue that should have been generated through value adding are being lost,” he said.

“This loss is further exacerbated by the fresh tuna exports or over exploitation of tuna by licensed fishing vessels that take fish for processing off shore, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing within PNG waters are impediments that must be addressed.”

Minister for Fisheries Dr Lino Tom said PNG unfortunately earns around K400 million each year on average from the rents collected from the vessel day scheme.

“We own the resources, we have one of the best preserved marine eco-systems in the world but yet we have been simple rent seekers by virtue of the mandate bestowed on us by the NFA Act and other unfriendly government legislation policies.

“This plan now seeks to unlock these restraining cuffs and allow NFA to go into in the commercial space apart from its regulatory protection,” he said.

Dr Tom said this is not to compete with our private sector but to enrich capitalisation and capacity building through the provision of enabling infrastructures, legislations and special type of vehicles like the PMIZ to make investment in the sector more attractive for all the private sector and most importantly, citizens .

“Huge potential in there, we’re just getting rents but if you look at the actual value of the product that we can sell which the strategic plan addresses for us to own the resource and sell every resource, you’re looking at a billion dollar revenue every year,” he said.

Dr Tom said the industry through its strategic plan now is looking at getting NFA exempted from the Public Money Management Regularisation Act and the National Procurement Act and operate as a company.

“For us to provide enabling infrastructures we can’t wait for tender processes.

“What we are seeking is just like other state owned enterprises where the government allows them their own procurement, that is what we are basically seeking in a way it speeds our process.

“To compete in this industry we have to be efficient and effective. With PMMR even though the court rules in our favour, they still hold on to our funds, we can’t access the funds so we’re looking at government in relaxing those issues,” he added.

“Exempt us from PMMR and NPC Act so we act basically as a company. In order for us to compete in the commercial space we must operate as a company otherwise the cumbersome government processes will impede our progress, we can’t really compete.”.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Maritime Industrial Zone in Madang Province will be re-developed to become a regional fish processing hub.

The design of the development and financing strategy of the project is being put together by National Fisheries Authority and the Treasury Department.

National Fisheries Authority chairman Ango Wangatau said the regional processing hub will bring in other Pacific Island nations together to create a critical massing of tuna processing and export from the Pacific.
PNG as the hosting hub will naturally emerge as the lead country.

He said with the vision of opening up PMIZ, the industry is looking at getting more than 30,000 new employment with revenue-generating over K3 to K4 billion (US$385 million –US$1.1 billion)

“Maximising export earnings is contingent on increasing value-adding production and the PMIZ redevelopment is the platform to achieve it.

“The NFA Board is confident that this investment will lift PNGs value-adding capacity to another level in the commercialisation agenda.”

Wangatau said the National Fisheries Board is committed to being part of these developments and is confident that the road map prescribed in the plan will enable the fisheries sector to contribute towards the vision of, “Taking Back PNG and leaving no child behind”.

He said he has been talking to the super funds to partner with NFA and invest in infrastructure and letting the private sector investment, this can enable the industry to build more facilities that will allow the industry to produce the expected results.