PNG fisheries minister happy with positive outcome of tuna meeting

PORT MORESBY,15 AUGUST 2018 (POST COURIER) – Papua New Guinea Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Patrick Basa has expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the 13th Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Ministerial Meeting held in Nauru recently.

The week-long meeting by fisheries ministers from the eight member countries ended with the signing of a communique endorsing the outcomes of issues raised during the meeting.

In the meeting, ministers were briefed on a PNA strategic plan being developed that would be presented to PNA leaders to endorse during their meeting in September.

The ministers were presented scientific data which showed that the tuna stocks in the Western Pacific waters were very healthy and not overfished, including the most sought-after big eye tuna.

They were pleased with that, and noted that that was in sharp contrast to stocks in other oceanic regions which reported overfishing.

The ministers agreed there should be no complacency just because our stocks were okay, and that stringent conservative measures in place should continue.

The ministers were also briefed by PNA Secretariat officials of developments in the global markets for tuna products.

They expressed the need for more downstream processing, especially for countries like PNG with European Union (EU) market access. When delivering the PNG country statement, Basa told his PNA colleagues of the new policy initiative introduced this year by the government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to increase onshore processing.

He said the rebates scheme that was introduced in January was working well, with hundreds more jobs being created in the six processing plants in the first six months and the export of value-added products increasing.

Basa said under the rebates scheme, a rebate (factories) as well as a refund (boats) was being offered for every tonne of fish offloaded and processed in PNG.

He said that was working well and urged other countries to follow the example.

“Increased onshore processing means more employment, more spin-off business opportunities for locals, and increased revenue and export earnings for the country,” Basa said.

“The goal of our Government is not only to strengthen economic growth but to diversify our base as well.”

PNA countries earn revenue mainly through selling days for purse seine fishing in their waters each year through the vessel day scheme (VDS) introduced in 2010.

Since then, revenue to the PNA countries combined has grown from US$60 million (K199 million) to US$470 million (K1.5 billion) annually.

The PNA countries are PNG, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Federated State of Micronesia.

Their waters are home to about 30 per cent of the world’s tuna supply.