Unlock fisheries’ potential

Editorial

PAPUA New Guinea has the potential to get increased revenue not only from agriculture, but fisheries and marine sector.The Government has to review current policies if it were to change the current scenario.In 2019, then minister assisting the prime minister, Manasseh Makiba, announced that the Government planned to review existing fishing policies to boost downstream processing and expand the market. The review would also look at the scheme which saw the domestic tuna processing and fishing industry paying the same fee of US$10,500 (K35,926) as distant water fishing nations although they were given refunds if they landed their catch in the country.Last month, we heard from the Fishing Industry Association (PNG) Inc suggested a discount on fishing days in order to raise millions of kina for the public purse.Not only that, the discount means thousands of job opportunities for our people.That’s only like discounts are offered on fishing days sold domestic fleets.The association suggested that the Government should consider offering discounts on vessel day scheme (VDS) for domestic fleets from US$10,500 (K36,926) per day to US$6,000 (K21,100) per day.President and chairman Sylvester Pokajam said selling fishing days to companies under the vessel day scheme (VDS) could generate K471 million for PNG in a year.This was done in consideration of 30 per cent of PNG VDS days, which remained unsold every year since 2018.Every year, the country was allocated 12,678 days in exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and 5,500 days in archipelagic waters (AW).Days allocated to EEZ is equally divided between domestic fleets linked to shore based processing plants and distant water fishing nations.Under the scheme, the country’s six tuna processors get a rebate of US$308 (K1,064) this year for every metric tonne of tuna produced. “By offering discount to fishing vessels linked to shore based processing plants will see the growth of direct employment from current 11,000 to 23,000 and indirect employment from 55,000 to 115,000,” Pokajam said. Pokajam said export earnings would grow from current K400 million to K1 billion, excluding the vessel day scheme value.Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Dr Lino Tom admits that the industry was faced with number of issues that needs to be addressed.The main agenda is to translate PNG from a coastal state to a fishing state.That means we have to put in the necessary infrastructure. At the moment, the cost of utilities are very high and we can’t compete with county like Thailand (current world tuna capital). We have limited number of fishing vessels off-loading at our wharves today. That is because we don’t have the infrastructures and the utilities and the cost of utilities such as power and water are so high at the moment and those are the issues we are trying to address now. PNG alone supplies about 25 per cent of the world’s tuna. Imagine if we can catch all those fish and sell it ourselves. Actually, the value of fish caught in our waters now is US$1 billon (K3.52 billion) every year for raw tuna alone and not processed tuna (value adding tuna). So if we have all the facilities we need in the industry and cut down the cost of doing business (utilities), we would be able to realise the value of fishing industry in the country. Right now, the cost of doing business is high.

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