The Fishing Industry Association of Papua New Guinea (FIA-PNG) and its members conclude the year 2021 with the accomplishments of a number of exciting projects whilst at the same time faces yet series of challenges that may not be just unique to the fisheries sector. The covid-19 pandemic has now established itself as a new phenomenon that will be with us for quite a while.
This year 2021 will be the first Christmas without the Grand Chief Late Sir Michael Thomas Somare, the founding father and visionary leader of our nation, Papua New Guinea. We honour him for the tremendous contributions he has made in not only uniting us to work together and co-exist as one nation with its uniqueness but some of the many proactive policies the late Grand Chief has put in place to contribute to the development of the fisheries sector.
In the same token, we also pay respect to prominent leaders who we lost this year; Late Sir Mekere Morauta, other great leaders and recently late Grand Chief Sir Paulias Matane who were instrumental in contributing immensely to the social, political and economy welfare and development of the country.
FIA-PNG also acknowledges the long-standing relationship with and the continuous support of the National Fisheries Authority (NFA). This year 2021, FIA-PNG was invited by NFA to be part of the vetting process of the PNG National Fisheries Strategic Plan 2021-2030 which was successfully launched in August 2021
FIA-PNG Responsible Sourcing Policy
FIA-PNG and its members have come a long way from a humble beginning since 1991 to where it is today in promoting and promulgating policies and best business practices that ensures the long-term sustainability of our tuna stocks whilst making sure that the economic benefits continue to accrue to the country. In collaboration with the National Fisheries Authority, our fishing and processing industry adheres to meeting international standards through good governance, traceability, transparency and accountability of our tuna resources.
Whether tinned or fresh, in sandwiches or sushi, there’s no denying tuna is among the most popular and commercially valuable fish around. Sustainable sourcing can be a challenge though. Growing awareness of overfishing has meant consumers increasingly want to be able to buy and eat their tuna with a clear conscience.
In May 2018, FIA-PNG and its members made a public commitment to develop and implement its “Responsible Sourcing Policy” (RSP). In October 2020, FIA PNG established a Technical Working Group to formulate its RSP, whilst providing the technical support for its implementation by its members.
There are four pillars under the “Responsible Sourcing Policy”:
PILLAR 1: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of PNG Tuna species (skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna);
In May 2020, MSC certification was granted to FIA PNG after undergoing more than 18 months of rigorous assessment for its skipjack and yellowfin tuna and ensuring that its main tuna species are currently well managed and harvested in a sustainable manner.
Just the mere attainment of the MSC certification standard alone is not enough to meet the market requirement for a sustainable and well-managed tuna stock.
The FIA-PNG and its members are equally committed to developing a thriving national tuna industry in a more socially responsible manner by promoting human rights and welfare of it crews whilst onboard fishing vessels, and in the same vein, committed to minimize and mitigate the impact of Marine litter and Fishing gear sources of micro plastic pollution and ghost gear.
PILLAR 2: Marine litter & Fishing gear mitigation
Towards the end of 2020, the FIA-PNG embarked on a journey to develop its marine litter and fishing gear procedure and audit tool for its members.
A draft was created and reviewed by its internal Technical Working Group (TWG) before subjecting it through a rigorous vetting process by an external peer-reviewers comprising representatives of internationally renowned NGOs, major global retailers and supermarkets. Training and capacity building was also conducted thru webinar series for members to better understand the procedure and equip them with the audit tools for implementation.
The final draft was approved and endorsed by the FIA-PNG board in September 2021.
Ghost Gear: Around 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear are lost or abandoned in our oceans each year, making up around one tenth of all marine litter. This “ghost gear” has increased as fishing efforts intensify, creating wide-ranging problems for the marine environment.
PILLAR 3: Social Responsibility and Human Rights welfare onboard
In March 2021, a draft Social Responsibility & Human Rights at Sea procedure and audit checklist was produced.
In July 2021, FIA PNG TWG reviewed the draft before inviting an external peer reviewer group comprising representatives of internationally renowned NGO’s, global retailers and supermarkets.
By October/November 2021, the vetting process by the external peer reviewer was completed. A series of webinars were then conducted in November/December 2021 for training and capacity building for the members.
A finalised draft version with the procedure and audit tool is now ready for approval by the FIA board in their next meeting.
PILLAR 4: Fishery Traceability
THE Fishing Industry Association of Papua New Guinea (FIA-PNG) in collaboration with National Fisheries Authority (NFA) has in-place cutting-edge technology that provides a robust traceability management system reporting in near real time that assists in the management of our fisheries resources, such as tuna, from harmful fishing practices. The FIA-PNG adopted the use of integrated Fisheries Information Management System (iFIMS) towards the end of 2020 and started implementing the system in January 2021.
In maintaining transparency and accountability throughout the supply chain, the traceability management system through the iFIMS has the capability and capacity to monitor, trace and track in near real time reporting of catch activities at sea to landing and transshipment of catch in ports. It also traces processing of the tuna products for export to international markets.
A traceability system is the best method to prevent fraud and illegal products from entering the supply chain as certified products. It also protects consumers and the efforts of everyone working to keep our oceans healthy. A traceable supply chain is key to deliver the vision of the MSC.
For a healthy ocean to provide its consumers with sustainable seafood, they can trust through supply chain certification. It ensures such products can be traced back to the origin of its certified fisheries and marine products.
Despite the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic, FIA PNG tuna fleet was able to maintain 100 per cent observer coverage from port to port by following and adhering to the Government’s protocol. FIA-PNG appreciates the Government and the National Fisheries Authority for their support at this most difficult and trying times.
The members’ fleet is also required to have on-board at all times the NFA Vessel Monitoring System complimented by the iFIMS which ensures transparency reporting in real time for the fishing operation.
There are 86 tuna purse seine vessels currently on the FIA-PNG MSC eligible vessel list, with 48 vessels actively fishing under the FIA-PNG MSC certification scheme. All these vessels are ably supported by NFA with the following:
· 100 per cent observer on-board coverage and reporting;
· 100 per cent Vessel Monitoring System;
· 100 per cent Catch Documentation Scheme;
· 100 per cent Traceable catches from fishing ground to market and vice versa;
· 100 per cent MSC fishing trips tracking; and
· 100 per cent FAD’s location, tracing, and reporting.
FIA-PNG is still on a journey and collaborating with its partners and stakeholders both international, regional and national to achieving its objectives.
National, regional and international partners Some of the highlights in 2021 of the ongoing collaborative efforts include:
1. Becoming a financial member of Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) in February 2021. Becoming a member exposes FIA PNG to global scale market as sustainable source of seafood. In November 2021, FIA-PNG Sustainability Director, Mr Marcelo Hidalgo, was appointed as a member of GSSI Board (Steering Committee).
2. FIA PNG joined SeafoodMAP, a free platform to promote Lobster and Shrimp fishery – a market strategy tool. The platform promotes PNG as a sustainable country together with NFA as a compliance authority. FIA PNG is a member of the taskforce together with 17 representatives to improve the SeafoodMAP program. SeafoodMAP is also a free platform where retailers and producers meet.
3. FIA-PNG became one of the newest members of and aligns itself with the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST) standards in August this year (2021). GDST is the platform that promotes traceability of seafood products in the global market.
4. FIA-PNG was part of the NFA stakeholder’s consultation which culminated in the successful launching of the PNG Fisheries Strategic Plan 2021-2030 in August 2021
5. FISH Standard - Going forward, FIA-PNG and its members have recently agreed in October 2021 to pursue a certification scheme under “Social Accountability and Crew Welfare Onboard” using the FISH (Fair, Integrity, Safety & Health) standards. This is work in progress and aims to have this process completed during the first quarter of 2022.
6. FIA-PNG has also become the latest signatory to the 2025 Pledge towards Sustainable Tuna (25PST), a voluntary commitment convened by the World Economic Forum, Friends of Ocean Action and the Global Tuna Alliance.
7. In November 2021, the bigeye tuna was added to the target species (after skipjack tuna and yellowfin tuna) as a MSC certified product.
8. Tracking and Monitoring Traceability – as one of the 4 pillars of our RSP, and in collaboration with the service provider, FIMS Inc., the FIA iFIMS will continue to undergo improvement in terms of reporting, etc., to continue to be more robust.
9. NFA Observer Programme saw another successful year amidst Covid 19 (Pandemic), adhering to Government protocols to ensure observer safety whilst maintaining 100% observer coverage at seas for the FIA-PNG fishing fleet.
a. Members i. RD Fishing Limited, one of FIA’s members, recently attained its certification in October 2021, for “social responsibility & human rights welfare” onboard after being assessed by the certification body, SGS, under Responsible Fishing Vessel Scheme (RFVS) standards.
ii. FIA PNG and its members will undergo its first Surveillance audit (year 1) on the MSC certification scheme in February 2022.
We will continue to support our fishing industry’s efforts to ascertain improvement in the sustainability of the tuna stock within Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Convention area, and to work in alignment and cooperation with NFA, regional & international partners and stakeholders in developing and implementing verifiable, science-based best practices with ongoing commitments to implement and adhere to international management measures.
This is only a glimpse of the many opportunities that FIA-PNG will pursue going forward in the short to medium term. FIA-PNG will continue to assert itself as a fishery game-changer in promoting a fishing environment free of bad practices, exceptional fishery management, traceability and social accountability, impacting positively in the Pacific. The FIA-PNG President/Chairman, Mr Sylvester Pokajam, staff and its entire membership extend a warm & Merry Christmas greetings to our good people of Papua New Guinea and wishing everyone a prosperous New Year 2022. May God bless Papua New Guinea.