By FRANCIS RODNEY PULU
PNG Fishing Industry Association (FIA) president, Sylvester Pokajam, wants the Government to review the policy of the National Fisheries Authority (NFA).
Pokajam claimed that the policy document was not discussed and approved by the board and management of the NFA.
He said that it was instead ‘hijacked’ in 2013 and found its way into the office of the former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for the government to endorse and approve.
Pokajam said despite being approved and becoming a national policy, it does not have any real effect.
“That is why the policy is not giving effect to the downturn in the progress of the industry in terms of new investments since 2013, There were no new investments for the last eight years,” he said.
Pokajam was the former managing director of NFA for ten years.
He said from 1998-2013 they were able to attract six processing plants and then after 2013 nothing happened.
“In fact, we had two project agreement signed by the State and the companies from China and South Korea but they (companies) pulled out,” Pokajam said.
“They pulled out because the problem is this, the policy was not able to address their interest,” he said.
“Therefore, the Government through NFA must review its policy in terms of vessel scheme rates and so on,” Pokajam said.
Pokajam said everyone in the Pacific is charging 6,000USD to 7,000USD for their domestic fleets while PNG is charging 10,500USD; a practice that was not done in the past.“ Likewise, the strategic plan and the PMIZ project will not work if we don’t fix the underlying problem,” he said.
Pokajam said the six processing plants were built in Wewak, Madang and four in Lae and collectively they produce about 646 metric tons of fish per day. Pokajam said if the review is not done, the existing fish-processing plants might close down because of high operational costs.
“The processing plants will close down and fishing will go bilateral and there will be no more PNG flag,” Pokajam said.
“This is the danger and that is the advice I got from the industry as of this week,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pokajam aims to bring together all the FIA members who have the same interests to discuss issues like duties, levies, exports and so on and find out answers to these problems.
He said FIA is embarking on a new scheme which calls for sustainability, ecosystem and governance.
“We are now certified Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) fisheries so that is the way to go,” Pokajam said. “We’ve got the certificate and now we are moving to work on the Tropical Rock lobster in the Torres Strait following a treaty between Australia and PNG.”
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