December 10, 2017

Pacific Marine Industrial Zone lacks dialogue

By Leanne Jorari in Manila, Phillipines

Papua New Guinea's fishing industry association has warned the vision for PNG to be the tuna hub of the Pacific will be dead, unless action is taken to save it.

The multi-million Kina Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) in Madang is a key part of the vision but it has seen a delay in construction.

In Manila at the 14th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the association said the project has the potential to compete with fisheries-rich nations like Philippines and Vietnam, but lack of dialogue with stakeholders is holding the progress hostage.

Jonathan Manieva Executive Officer Fishing Industry Association of PNG said, “I think we can come back and create some awareness and educate our policy makers that this is a working policy. We don’t have to throw it in the bin if they don’t consider it viable. We can bring it back to the table to fine-tune it.

Sometimes we, the industry and government, come here (WCPFC) and we sit behind each other as one delegation but when we go back home we sit across the table and they see us as competitors or as an enemy. If we’re going down this long term road, we should be looking as each other as strategic partners," said Manieva.

According to association treasurer, Fabian Chow, the project is going nowhere fast unless the government of the day speaks to the right people.

“In Madang, after these success stories, a PMIZ that’s going nowhere fast. That people are talking big stories but nothings going to happen.

You’re talking about a K350 million (US$109 million) investment that’s just going to be wasted because no-one wants to come there because things have changed and that intelligent response we had to bring in the market players over these last 20 years, because no one is listening, something has changed, the last three years have been a disaster,” Chow said.

Meanwhile, environmentalist and NGO groups have used the WCPFC forum in Manila to air their concerns about Observer safety in the Pacific; following the death of observer, James Nambaru, in June this year.

According to Alfred Cook from the World Wildlife Fund New Zealand, the measures put in place to protect regional fisheries observers are not being adequately implemented.

Cook added that Pacific countries; and regulatory bodies need to be transparent and release information to the families and the public about observer deaths in a timely manner. Something he claims is not happening regularly.

“In the case of James Nimbaru, the PNG observer that went missing, I think there still quite a few questions around what happened. The overall conclusion is that it was a potential suicide. There was some video evidence of what happened on board the vessel that night. And that actually emphasises a greater need for electronic monitoring aboard these vessels.

Its not just about catching people doing bad things, it’s also about being able to prove the elements of what really happened out there in the seas so that it can protect the industry and crews just as much as it can punish them for wrongdoing.”

Philip Polon, deputy Managing Director for the National Fisheries Authority, gave an update on the death of the late Nambaru, stating that the case is now in the hands of the Police and not with the NFA.

“We believe we are the biggest observer team in the Pacific. We’ve got around 250 active observers, much more than other Pacific Island countries.

The task of managing a large number is quite difficult and we acknowledge the fact that an incident like that happening. We’re doing all we can to minimise the accident as such.So NFA is having trouble because we’re not the investigating body anymore.The investigation has been shifted to the police as a criminal investigation,” said Polon.