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A beacon of hope, among regional woes

Monika Singh
Wednesday, December 06, 2017

FOR the past 50 years Levuka-based Pacific Fishing Company (PAFCO) has been a beacon of hope for the Lomaiviti group, providing jobs and earning much needed export income.

PAFCO chief executive officer Bhan Pratap said the company could offer valuable lessons to others across the Pacific when it came to fish processing and value adding.

Mr Pratap, who is part of the Fiji delegation led by Fisheries Minister Semi Koroilavesau, made the comment at the 14th regular session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in progress in Manila, the Philippines.

"The value adding happening at PAFCO serves as a timely reminder of what is possible across the region and what can be achieved, when there is Government commitment and community support," said Mr Singh.

He attributed PAFCO's success to the long-term supply agreement to process fish loins, they currently enjoy with US-based Bumble Bee.

"We can process up to 30,000 metric tonnes a year but because of inconsistent supply, we are hitting up to 22,000 metric tonnes, so there is still potential to grow this," he said.

However in contrast to the Fiji situation, Papua New Guinea's Fishing Industry Association representative, Fabian Chow says competing with global processing giants like Vietnam and Thailand will need more political will.

"Unlike in Fiji, in PNG there is very little interest by our Government to try and grow the industry," said Mr Chow.

John Maefiti from the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association says as catch is reduced, this will diminish "what was once a viable and attractive fishery to a shadow of itself."

"The inability of the WCPFC in the past to control a massive increase in high seas fishing effort is a sad indictment of the ability of this commission to actually manage the fisheries under its charge," he said.

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