Fiji can now be considered the fishing hub of the region in terms of the infrastructure, land availability, available concessions for foreign fleets, airport facilities and port of trades.
It is an industry that has contributed much to the economy in terms of trade, employment and establishing international trade relations with leading fishing countries in the world.
As mentioned last week, the fishery industry, specifically the tuna sector, has registered behind tourism as the major income earner for foreign exchange and exports in Fiji.
Fiji's tuna industry started from humble beginnings with the establishment of the cannery at Levuka in 1966 and supported by small pole and line fleet targeting surface occurring species.
It is an industry that still has a lot to offer provided if a few areas are improved, encourage more foreign investments and streamline the processes involved.
This week we look at the proposed areas looked at to try and advance the industry from the recent consultations held early this month.
Since the establishment of PAFCO in Levuka, Fiji now has seven other processing plants which are now all exporting and also supplying the local market.
These companies are; Fiji Fish, Tri Pacific Marine, Golden Ocean Group, Hangton Pacific Ltd, Celtrock, Tosa Bussan and Solander.
Four of these companies in Golden Ocean, Solander, Sea Quest and Tri Pacific have upgraded their fish factories and vessels to meet EU standards.
Last week we looked into the issues that have restricted the industry.
The way forward
At the consultation a few issues were highlighted to improve the industry.
There was also representation from the Fiji Boat Owners Association and the Fiji Offshore Fisheries Association (FOFA) which all companies are affiliated to.
FOFA has about 70 per cent shares in Fiji Tuna Industry. FOFA members have 34 EEZ Fishing Licensed vessels and 80-plus vessels fishing in high seas and regional EEZ.
There are five processing factories with cold storages and other related fishing facilities belong to FOFA members. The following are their recommendations.
* The Fiji EEZ Fiji is situated outside the major tuna zone of the western central Pacific Ocean. Science has proved that Fiji harvests all tuna that enter into its EEZ, it will not affect the tuna stock of the region. So there are no grounds to reduce the current total harvest catch of 15,000 tonnes.
* Licence issue this issue has been discussed at length. It is proposed that the Fiji government consider not only the number of fishing vessels but also the total contribution to the economy in terms of employment, economic development, and food security in the long term. The argument is that the last analysis of the industry was not based on the information of the whole industry and did not give the total picture. The government should base information from all industry players. The spin-offs from having more companies will be feet throughout the economy.
* More shore investments should be encouraged by local companies and fishing licences to be provided to them. Suggestion is one Fiji fish license for each half million investment. This will ensure stable supply to local companies, create more employment and improve capability of plants.
* High seas Fiji needs to continue to build up high seas-catch data to have a fair share of the tuna resource in the Pacific. This area will continue to grow and conditions must be put in place to encourage it. Perhaps incentives should be provided to local companies when they move into this area. This is viewed as the future of the tuna industry in Fiji by those at industry level.
* Accessing other EEZs the best way to do this is through access arrangement and using agreements in place like the MSG (Melanesian Spearhead group). Government support is important.
* The processing of fishing licenses and fees should be reviewed as it is more restrictive than conducive.
* Processing plants should be encouraged to "value-add" to their current products to supply more markets and create more employment.
* Wharf space this is an issue which has been discussed for many years. Now is the time to make it a priority because of the number of fishing vessels in the country and also foreign fleets coming in to use the plants and also other services.
* Better consultation with industry stakeholders to bring about policy changes.
These are the submissions of FOFA
As highlighted last week, the opportunity for FEC here is basically value-adding to what is already in place, this is the request made by those at industry level;
* Try to create the one stop shop;
* Government lobbying to create training opportunities for shipping crew;
* Access to land development for factory sites; and,
* Market access and advice.
The Tuna Management Development Plan is expected to be realised before the end of this year after consultations with all stakeholders at all levels.
* This is a weekly contribution from the Fiji Export Council.
(Additional material source: FOFA March 2012)