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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 20, 2001 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Officials say Papua New Guinea stands to gain enormous economic benefits if it wins its bid to host the headquarters for a new regional fisheries commission.

Fisheries Minister Ron Ganarafo is in New Zealand this week, where member countries -- including Australia, Japan and the United States -- will determine where the commission secretariat should be established.

State Minister Sir John Kaputin is accompanying Mr. Ganarafo to promote PNG's bid.

During a news conference chaired by Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta, Ganarafo said that in order to qualify, PNG must ratify the Convention on the Conservation and Management of the highly Migratory Fish Stocks of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

The minister said that was the main reason why the Cabinet had to fast track the ratification of the convention.

The 30 countries of the southwest Pacific region have been meeting since 1994 to promote and develop sustainable management practices involving highly migratory fish.

These fish include tuna, swordfish, shark, whale and other species that move about within the region.

Mr. Ganarafo said member countries agreed last September in Hawai‘i to set up a secretariat. Several countries were now vying for the headquarters to be set up in their own country.

"The race is on and Papua New Guinea, being home to one of the largest tuna stocks in the world, we feel that we should bid for that office to be based in Port Moresby," he said.

The minister said 30 countries involved meet every three months. About 400 representatives from all member countries attend the meetings, including some of the biggest players in the business, which have millions of kina to invest in the industry.

He said to enhance PNG's bid, it was important that the convention be fast tracked and ratified.

He added that there was nothing improper or illegal about invoking Section 117(5)(b) of the Constitution.

"That's all it means. There is no hidden agenda, no secrets, no nothing," he said.

Sir Mekere said fast tracking the ratification is an accepted practice, especially by previous governments.

He also stressed again during the conference that he had no personal interest in the tuna industry.

Mr. Ganarafo said Sir Mekere only ran a prawn business using three boats, a business he operated before entering politics.

"The accusation leveled at the prime minister relating to whether he has any interest in the tuna business, the answer is a simple no," he said.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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