Papua New Guinea’s 5957 million square
kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone is one of the largest marine
jurisdictional zones in the Pacific and the richest in fisheries resources
in the region.
The extensive and diverse zone includes
17,000 kilometres of coastline. Deltaic flood plains and barrier-lagoon
complexes extend for 4,250 kilometres, or approximately a quarter of the
total coastline. Islands and atolls account for 4,180 kilometres, or
nearly one quarter of the total.
Besides abundant tuna and other pelagic
species, several other commercially-important fish, shellfish and
sedentary species are found in Papua New Guinea’s waters. More than
10,000 species of fish, molluscs and crustaceans have so far been
Current production of fish in the
country is estimated at about 145,000 metric tonnes per annum of tuna and
tuna-like species and other pelagic fish. It is estimated that the
potential yield of those species is about 370,000 metric tonnes per annum.
The total resource yield has the
potential to reach 800,000 tonnes of fish and marine products annually.
Other coastal resources like reef and
lagoon fish show a potential for considerable increases in yields.
Coastal commercial fishing operations
are based primarily on prawns, lobster and barramundi and a collection of
sedentary fisheries resources, including beche-de-mer, trochus shells,
pearl shell and green snail. The operations are carried out by small-scale
commercial fishermen, who sell their product to a range of small to
medium-sized fish processing and marketing entrepreneurs. Sea cucumber is
collected and processed for export. The trade in shells with lustrous
interiors is small, but growing.
The prawn fishing effort is mainly
concentrated in the Gulf of Papua, the Torres Strait and, to a lesser
extent, in Orangerie Bay in Milne Bay Province. Lobster is caught by local
dive fishermen in the Torres Straits and the Gulf of Papua. Barramundi is
caught by fishermen in Western and Gulf Provinces, mainly for export to
Domestic private investment in
commercial fisheries in Papua New Guinea is small. Inland fish production
is still very much underdeveloped, but commercial farming of trout and
carp has been undertaken by a few farmers in the Highlands regions. Inland
fish production amounts to an estimated 10 metric tonnes annually and
consists mainly of carp, tilapia and freshwater prawns, with 70 metric
tonnes from trout and carp fish farming.
The tuna industry has the greatest
potential for fishery development. More than 40 per cent of the Western
Pacific’s tuna catch is harvested from Papua New Guinea’s waters.
Tuna is currently taken by distant water
fishing vessels operating under licence. The current haul primarily
comprises skipjack, yellow fin and bigeye tuna taken by purse seiners and
long-liners from Japan, Taiwan, the United States, Korea, the Philippines
and chartered vessels from Pacific Island member countries.
The Government has established a
domestic tuna policy, but the country lacks such a fishing fleet and an
on-shore processing industry has not been available to properly utilise
Two separate agreements have however,
been signed between the Government and two private canning companies to
develop tuna canneries in Madang Province. A mackerel cannery is already
into production in Lae.
The Papua New Guinea Government is
exploring avenues for the privatisation of various aspects of its coastal
fisheries programme. Private sector participation is to be promoted in the
areas of handling, processing and marketing of marine products, craft
construction, repairs and maintenance, engine sales and ice and fishing
The Government is playing a key role in
the management of the fishing industry. The long-term sustainability of
the resources and the environmental impact are the key factors for the
long-term sustainability, growth and development of the fisheries sector.
Unlike the country’s vast mineral
resources, fisheries are renewable, and, if exploited within the limits of
sustainable yields, they will generate, on a long-term basis, food, income
and employment opportunities for Papua New Guineans.
The major emphasis of the Government’s
policy is the development of industrial and commercial fisheries which
will help to provide the infrastructure necessary for small and medium
scale fisheries development.
The Government intends to support the
development of commercial mariculture projects The operations will,
however, be subject to licensing in order to regulate the development of
the industry. In line with the overall environmental policy, all projects
will be subjected to a complete environmental impact assessment.
An integrated surveillance system is
being installed. A national observer programme is being developed closely
with the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), to monitor the operations of
distant water fishing vessels and linkages will be maintained with respect
to regional surveillance programmes.
The newly formed National Fisheries
Authority has a mandate to improve efficiency and accountability in the
industry as well as respond directly to the needs of the fishing industry.
The move is in line with the present trend in other renewable resources
sectors, such as agriculture and forestry.
Potential investment opportunities in the fisheries
sector can be obtained through the Fisheries Sector Manual and the project
profiles being promoted by the Investment Promotion Authority.