ILLEGAL fishing vessels using sophisticated technology are “running wild” in PNG waters because of the authorities’ lack monitoring and surveillance capacity, the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) revealed yesterday.
NFA executive manager – corporate service, John Kasu, and executive manager licensing and data management, Philip Polon, told the parliamentary inquiry into the May riots targeting Asian-owned and operated businesses that only PNG registered fishing vessels were monitored.
Mr Polon said 180 tuna vessels, 15 prawn trawlers and seven lobster vessels had been fitted with the latest automatic locating devices (ALDs) which the NFA monitors using satellite to tell where their location is around the country.
He said by next year, the vessels would also be carrying latest devices to monitor the catches they make out at sea and recorded in Port Moresby.
“However, we are unable to cover 100% illegal vessels fishing in the vast maritime areas. We are unable to track illegal boats as they easily come in and out using very sophisticated vessels.”
Mr Polon said the main areas whereby illegal fishing occurred were Daru, Western province, in the Arafura Sea and in the north between Sandaun and Manus provinces.
“We also have cases of illegal fishing vessels on high seas.”
He said most illegal fishing was conducted by Indonesia, China and Taiwan.
Under the Fisheries Forum Agreement, joint surveys with the help of the Australian and New Zealand Air Force conducts joint aerial survey and the NFA, in an agreement with the Defence Force, carry out 10 patrols each year which is fully-funded by the NFA,” Mr Polou said.
The NFA said people smuggling is highly-possible in the open seas as NFA only has 60 enforcement officers, who cannot cover the vast sea area.
The authority said although they had no records or evidence of people smuggling on fishing vessels, it agreed that it might be possible given the constraints.
The inquiry team made up of chairman Jamie Maxtone-Graham, West New Britain province Governor Peter Humphreys, Sohe MP Anthony Nene and Lagaip-Porgera MP Philip Kikala also raised questions on the working conditions of Papua New Guineans on board the fishing vessels.
Mr Polon said Papua New Guineans were very lazy compared to foreigners and also the turn-over rate was very high after 14 days at sea.
“A fishing vessel with a crew of 13 for example spends 15 days at sea and when they come ashore, the crew members have money in their pockets, they do not go back.
“After 14 days, we can have a new crew of 13 and we don’t fish full time,” Mr Polon said.
“Fishing boats owners are saying Papua New Guineans are lazy. Our fishermen are too relaxed.”
The inquiry said that Papua New Guineans find it hard to work on the boats because they were treated like slaves and worked hard with little pay.
The NFA made it clear that Asian workers also faced similar conditions but would like to have proper coordination with Labour Department to improve working conditions of all fishermen.
Mr Polon and Mr Kasu recommended that there should be more people in the enforcement unit, improve linkages with key Government agencies such as Customs, Labour, Defence Force and police, and better terms and conditions for skilled manpower.