By Baeau Tai

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, ) – The Papua New Guinea government should encourage commercial fishing and help village fishermen tap into a "large potential" income source, the president of the PNG National Fisheries Association, Maurice Brownjohn, said yesterday. 

He said the Koki market in Port Moresby has been the most successful outlet for local fishermen.

"It used to handle an estimated 500 metric tons a year from surveys conducted by the Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources in the 1990s. It sounds a lot but that is only 1,300 kg a day on average. More significant is that it handled more fish than all government interventions nationwide combined at the peak of the multi million dollar coastal fisheries programs, which started in the early 1980s," said Mr Brownjohn.

He said there is much the Government could do to help promote fishing as small and medium enterprises by removing the need for political endorsement of licenses for commercial operations in the provinces, removing excise on zoom so outboard motors could become viable, and by encouraging fisheries training at community and vocational school levels.

"One wonders where it would be if Government had helped with providing market opportunities through a legislated state run buying depot as was the case in the 1980s," he said.

He said the growth of the fisheries sector depended on the existence of "real" physical market opportunities, logistics, scale of economy, investor confidence and perceived potential profits and risks.

In 1990 a total of 110 tons of fish and fishery products was exported earning US$0.6 million (K0.58 million), consisting of bechedemer, lobster, shark, unprocessed shell, prawns and frozen tuna. 

The sector has grown to above 45,464 tons, valued at US$75.6 million (K292.4 million) in 2002 due largely to the growth of the domestic tuna industry.

But despite the growth of the sector the potential for inshore reef and estuarine fisheries could sustain at least a 20-fold sustainable growth if more viable market opportunities existed at the village level, Mr Brownjohn said. 

December 4, 2003

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