Speaking at a fisheries symposium in Fiji last Wednesday, Zeming said PNG’s 2.5 million square km Exclusive Economic Zone held about 18% of the world’s tuna stock, but the people were mere bystanders who didn’t benefit much from this vast wealth.
He said only recently some Distant Water Fishing Nations had recognised this and begun to invest in downstream processing and sustainable coastal fisheries projects.
He singled out the Republic of Korea (South Korea) for praise. He said Korea was working closely with Pacific states, including PNG, to address challenges facing the Pacific people.
“PNG has over seven million people and a high population growth rate. It is important that this sector provides employment and income earning opportunities for our people.
“Today, PNG has five tuna processing plants in operation providing direct employment to over 20,000 people. Thousands more benefit from spin off opportunities, and indirect employment.
“Later this year another loining plant will be opened in Lae, Morobe Province. It will provide more jobs for our people, and make the industry more competitive in the international market.
“We have received a number of interests from Korean fishing companies to invest in tuna processing in PNG. A proposal is now before Cabinet for approval,” Minister Zeming said.
The Minister said that with rapid population growth, demand for food was putting pressure on coastal fisheries and resources.
“A classic example is the sea cucumber fisheries which has been declared overfished in PNG and other Pacific countries. A six year moratorium was introduced in 2009.”
He said just declaring a moratorium was not good enough. The government was therefore looking at alternative income earning opportunities for the people, such as sustainable aquaculture and mari-culture.
“We appreciate the support of our stakeholders, like Korea, in this respect and look forward to developing this partnership.”
The conference was organized by the Korean Maritime Institute. According to the institute, South Korea netted 389,000 tons of tuna in 2014. Of this, 69% came from the Pacific, mainly the counties who are parties to the Nauru Agreement, including PNG.