The tuna industry alone has provided over 15,000 formal jobs for Papua New Guineans, of which 68 percent are filled by women, says National Fisheries Authority (NFA) managing director Justin Ilakini.

These numbers are from the six tuna canneries – RD Tuna Canners Limited, Frabelle PNG Ltd, Majestic Seafood Corporation Ltd, Nambawan Seafoods PNG Ltd, International Food Corporation Ltd and South Seas Tuna Corporation – that are in the country at the moment.

The majority of workers are employed in two main canneries, which are RD Tuna in Madang, and Frabelle in Lae, Morobe.

Ilakini said the tuna industry had the potential to solve the country’s unemployment issue “if the sector keeps expanding”.

“Currently, we have about six canneries that we process our canned tuna and other marine resources for our domestic markets and that is where most of our locals are employed,” he said.

“Since 2012, the numbers have increased, although we had a slow economy in 2019 to 2020 due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19), however, the numbers returned to normal as soon as the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

“This shows the commitment of tuna businesses to ensuring there is opportunity for Papua New Guineans to participate in the benefits from this resource.

“There are plans in the pipeline to further bring in investors who can grow the industry.

“One way is to focus on downstream processing were we can see more people being employed.”

Illakini added that apart from other fish markets and inland aquaculture activities, tuna still remained the country’s biggest income earner and based on current trends this number would increase into the future.

He said PNG compared with its peers, have more women involved in the industry that was something the NFA was proud of.

Meanwhile, Infofish market and promotion officer Dr Nawin Rajah said PNG contributed the largest share of tuna from the Pacific to the international market.