Pacific nations should stand together as one Big Blue Pacific Continent and increase their levels of cooperation and collaboration in the facilitation of investments in tuna fisheries sector and maximise value of the tuna resources.

Acting Prime Minister John Rosso while addressing the 8th Pacific Tuna Forum last week in Port Moresby, said Pacific Islands countries have made huge contributions to the global economy.

“To the successes of many businesses; and to the livelihoods of people around the world by ensuring the sustainable management of tuna and other highly migratory and straddling fish stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

“This can be seen by the fact that tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean contributes close to 60 percent of global tuna catch over the past decade for Albacore, Bigeye, Skipjack and Yellowfin. In 2022 the total tuna catch in Western and Central Pacific Ocean was around 2.7 million metric tons with a market value of around US$5.9 billion.

“For the Skipjack tuna alone a total of 1.7 million tons of purse seine tuna catches were made in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean in 2022 and out of this a total of 1.5 million tons of purse seine tuna catches were made in the waters of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement. Basing on the average Skipjack tuna Bangkok price of US$2, 000 per metric ton, the value of the purse seine tuna catches within the PNA waters equates to US$3 billion,” said Rosso.

He said if the tuna resources are processed within the region there is potential to value-add and retain an increased share of the market value within the region.

“However, only about 5 percent of the tuna catches within the PNA waters are landed and processed within the Pacific Island region.

“In terms of total value of the global tuna market, a recent publication of the Forum Fisheries Agency reported that the total value of the global tuna market for food products was US$42.2 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach US$50.2 billion in 2028,” he said.

The Forum Fisheries Agency publication also stated that a total of US$479 million was contributed to the government revenues of the Pacific Island Countries from tuna resource license and access fees in 2021.

Rosso said that in order to harness the true potential of the Blue Pacific Continent the Pacific need to cooperate with other countries in the region.

“It is time for the Pacific Island Countries to come together as one big Blue Pacific Continent and increase our levels of cooperation and collaboration in the facilitation of investments in the tuna fisheries sector.

“Industries and businesses thrive on building synergies and improving supply chain linkages that contribute to their competitiveness. By changing mindsets and looking at our region as one big Blue Pacific Continent, it would enable the region to coordinate and link investments; for example; Majuro Transshipment port in the Republic of Marshall Islands to Noro tuna processing hub in Solomon Islands or to tuna processors along the northern coast of PNG.

The end goal should be to improve the well-being of our people through maximising value of the tuna resources as we aspire to promote mutually beneficial arrangements,” he said.

Rosso said the Pacific have much to learn from the recent COVID-19 pandemic which caused major supply chain disruptions and affected our lives and businesses including the tuna industry and our economies.

“The government of Papua New Guinea recognises that we cannot continue to do business like the pre-COVID-19 years.

“We must make constructive decisions to chart our future. My government has therefore made a decision to consider investing in the sector. This would enable the government to have greater visibility and understanding of tuna fishing and processing operations.

“I can assure industry players that any investments into the sector by the government will be geared towards addressing industry and supply chain challenges and in complementing the operations of the existing tuna fishing and processing businesses.

“It will also be about facilitating the true local participation, it cultivates contentment within our communities, augments our national development and fosters an environment conducive to investors.

“We as Governments and policy makers in the Pacific Islands region, together with our industry players, NGOs and all stakeholders must learn from the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic. We must take into account challenges faced in addressing Climate Change and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing practices.

“We must make decisive decisions to improve the competitiveness of tuna fishing and processing businesses within our Blue Pacific Continent; and recognise that improving and strengthening supply chain linkages within our region is a major step forward towards improving our region’s competitiveness.

We can safely agree that the disruptions in industry supply chain and other challenges experienced in recent years are pointing us to the need for change in our approach to supporting the sustainable development of the tuna industry in the Pacific Islands region,” he said.

Rosso also applauded the Pacific region’s continuous strive to not sit on their laurels and enjoyed their past successes but to continue to invest in our people to be the best in their respective fields in the fisheries sector.

“We continue to embrace, adopt and invest in new technologies and strengthen alliances with our development partners to address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing practices and in improving our understanding of the impacts of climate change in the fisheries sector.

“The result of this unwavering and sustained commitment of the Pacific Islands Countries is realised in the scientific assessments that shows that all the major tuna stocks of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean continue to be harvested at sustainable levels,” Rosso said.

He said Papua New Guinea is committed to working with the other countries in the region and the industry to pursue sustainable investments in tuna fisheries sector.

“Our trajectory hinges on harnessing our resources judiciously and propelling our communities forward.

“We stride toward a future where Papua New Guinea stands tall as a beacon for sustainable resource development, anchored in shared prosperity and holistic growth,” said Rosso.