At the 6th Pacific Tuna Forum
Under the theme:
“Fostering Greater Social, Economic and Financial Benefits – Through Sustainable Management and Development of Tuna Resources”
13 September 2017
It is a pleasure for Papua New Guinea to host this very prestigious 6th Pacific Tuna Forum.
Tuna is indeed the natural resource that binds the peoples and Governments of the Pacific Islands together.
Tuna is also the major revenue earner for many of our Governments in the Pacific, and for some, it is their single source of revenue.
The importance placed on this resource cannot be overstated.
Even back in the 1970s, one of the main policy agendas of many Governments was co-operation together to manage their tuna resources.
This bi-annual Pacific Tuna Forum is an initiative of the Papua New Guinea Government, through the National Fisheries Authority, when it was first held here in 2007.
Today, it is held in Partnership with INFO-FISH, and our Regional Fisheries Management Organizations.
This 3rd forum to be hosted in Papua New Guinea, and also includes the inaugural fishery technology expo that was held yesterday.
This forum is a premier tuna industry meeting in the Pacific region.
I welcome all policy makers, fishery managers, NGOs and industry leaders from around the world, who are with us here today.
The theme of this Forum, focusing on “Greater Social, Economic and Financial Benefits Through Sustainable Management” is very timely.
This theme also resonates quote well with the theme of the 48th Pacific Islands Forum in Apia last week, that very much focused on sustainable development, management and conservation of the Blue Pacific.
At the Leaders’ meetings in Apia, we urged the establishment and mainstreaming of regional Minimum Terms and Conditions in all areas of investment and development.
This includes a focus on the environment, and compliance across all marine sectors, particularly fisheries.
We are placing our support behind a number of initiatives and export standards.
This includes Competent Authorities and Catch Documentation Schemes in our region’s small Island economies.
As a region we have access to over 50 percent of world tuna supplies.
However, the major markets for tuna are not within our region.
Papua New Guinea, through the National Fisheries Authority, recognised the importance of expanding our markets.
We have established a Trade Lobby Committee which is comprised of both Government and industry representatives.
The aim of this committee is to explore and develop new markets.
We must be proactive, and go out and look for markets for our fisheries products if we are to have a viable industry into the future.
But Pacific Island Nations need to maintain focus on what we must do to ensure we have a viable fisheries sector for our children and their futures.
We are building upon the 2016 Forum Communique calling for all high seas bunkering of purse seiners – to be forced into our zones and under license.
As part of this, we must broaden this to include long line transhipping and bunkering operations.
We have to work together to further prevent illegal activities.
Building upon the success of PNA nations in managing the purse seine fishery, we further urge Small Island Nations to use their strength in number, for greater leverage on their interests and to safeguard the interests of our countries.
As Pacific Island States we need to steer our destiny in zone and in self-determination, and ensure benefits go to the people and economies.
We must do this rather than struggle with external dictates by those believing they have paternalistic rights to our fish and our waters.
Overall we need to strengthen Pacific solidarity in ensuring collective efforts for joint initiatives for improved ownership, participation and returns from the Blue Pacific.
This needs to be through specific initiatives in the sectors such as fishing, processing, transport, trade, and food security.
We can build upon the successes of our regional brand for niche products, and ensure that we have the right standards.
I urge that we ensure that our operators are provided with more opportunities and supported by the government in the sector.
This can be support through the development of partner funded initiatives, so we are not just seeing 100% foreign ventures promoted in these sectors throughout the region.
We need genuine joint ventures.
We also encourage PPP initiatives, especially in port services, processing and cold store infrastructure development.
In my view there is has great potential for our economies, particularly in port waste management for the sector, and this has the added benefit of helping to preserve the natural environment.
We need to develop more downstream processing and provide more spin-off business opportunities for our people.
All too often we see the tuna sector that is alienating itself from pour people, and particularly our SMEs.
We must create more opportunities so that is industry can continue to provide, more support for labour mobility, and making sure that there are more income-earning opportunities for our coastal communities throughout the Pacific Island Nations.
These untapped resources, and the opportunities that are available, must be accessed at sea and onshore.
Our Government today, is taking a stand against those non-preforming ventures.
We are now going to review over the next three months.
We are going to review many of these ventures, and the agreements that we have, because as I said at the Pacific Islands’ Forum last week.
For far too long in our region, we see ventures that continue to never make profits, Maurice Brown-John said in Apia last week, they never want to leave either.
That is why, enough-is-enough.
It is time to stop playing these kind of games.
It is important that benefits are shared equally, and fairly, so that our people benefit from the resources that they truly own.
Our Government is continuing to undertake the responsibility to continue to build good public infrastructure, and provide more training, and tax incentives that will continue to strengthen the industry as we have done in the past.
Papua New Guinea has subsidised this industry over the past decade, almost to the tune of almost 1 billion US Dollars.
This is by way of concessional fishing rights, in addition to many other generous concessions to the fishing industry.
But the reality this hardly adds to the production output that we have sought to achieve.
So we can ask where are the results from the investment that the country has been making?
We only see market share eroding, for example countries are having access to the markets that are usually reserved for countries like Papua New Guinea, where the tuna originates.
So in countries like Germany, they are achieving market share of close to 40 per cent, from exports that come from Papua New Guinea and the Pacific region.
This is unacceptable to countries like ours, because it erodes the market share for our people and our country.
That is why it is important that we go back and review some of the agreements, where we are not seeing processing plants that are not even running up to 75 per cent capacity that is required to hold a license in the industry.
We have a scenario where only 1 in 5 fish, that our Government has subsidised, is actually processed in Papua New Guinea.
Only 1 in 3, or even 1 in 4 jobs to process the catch are in Papua New Guinea.
In reality it means that almost 80% of the benefits from Papua New Guinea, are actually enjoyed by other countries.
That is why PNG flagged vessels, that fish our waters today, who enjoy the discounts, and yet have not landed a single fish to our processors in 2 years will be held to account.
This is simply not acceptable.
Our Government will implement changes.
They will make the review, and by 2018 I expect that this scenario will change.
We will increase rewards and support to direct to those who are genuine in the industry, who are genuine in wanting to process the fish in Papua New Guinea.
Let me state again, we welcome genuine investors, but those who are only here for cheap fishing are welcome to leave.
Our Government is committed to building the necessary support infrastructure.
We will create facilities so that fishing men and women, and processors are able to bring fish into ports in a timely manner, can process them at a reasonable cost.
We are exploring funding options for the Wagang Port, a dedicated fisheries port in Lae.
We want this critical infrastructure to commence construction soon.
As many of you will know the Government of Papua New Guinea proposed the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone in Madang as a regional tuna processing hub.
We will continue to pursue this project.
There is no easy way and there are no shortcuts in building a truly robust and competitive fisheries industry together.
We need to build competitiveness by increasing productivity and reducing costs of production.
During this term of Government, the policies and the achievements of the PNG fisheries sector will be measured against the regional benchmark.
This will be as outlined in the regional roadmap for sustainable fisheries.
We will continue to pursue onshore investment so that we can support these policies, and work with processors towards meeting their processing capacities.
Our Government is committed to making this happen, and will work with all stakeholders, especially our locally based fishing and processing industries.
We have the greatest potential in our tuna industry.
And together we will build a fairer, sustainable and more profitable tuna sector.
I wish you all a successful, informative and productive forum and an enjoyable stay in Papua New Guinea.
I now declare open – the 06th Pacific Tuna Forum 2017.
Prime Minister – Peter O’Neill