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Tuna Fishery Minimize

Tuna is the largest of PNG fisheries and represents a balance of both domestic industry development and Foreign (DWFN) Access arrangements. The fishery is primarily based on the skipjack and yellowfin fish species with smaller quantities of bigeye and albacore.

The fishery is guided by a National Tuna Fishery Management Plan, which establishes an overall management structure and an application framework for the longline, purse-seine and pole and line fisheries, including licence limits and total allowable catches. PNG has embarked on onshore investments in the tuna fishery and as a result foreign and domestic access by purse-seine vessels is increasingly linked to commitment to onshore investment, preferably in the form of tuna processing.

Tuna is found through out the PNG fisheries zone but especially to the north and east. As tuna are a migratory species moving from area to area depending on climatic conditions, the quantity found in the PNG zone may vary significantly from year to year. A regional approach to managing tuna is therefore important and PNG is a party to a number of bilateral and multilateral arrangements for this purpose.

Catch is usually about 150,000mt to 200,000mt per year but it is estimated that the resource can sustain much higher annual catches of 250,000mt to 300,000mt. The potential market value is about K1billion depending on the commodity price. Catch from PNG waters accounts for 20-30% of the regional catch and is about 10% of the global catch. There is now concern that yellowfin and bigeye tuna may be nearing and overfished state.

In the recent past, catch trend by vessel category has changed, such that 50% is now caught by vessels associated with on shore investments in PNG and the other 50% is caught by foreign purse-seine vessels who used to catch most of the tuna.

PNG currently has access agreements with Taiwan, Korea, Philippines and China and is negotiated on an annual basis. A multilateral treaty arrangement exists with USA. These establish the number of vessel allowed to enter the fishery and the access fees payable. Usually about 130 foreign purse-seine vessels fish in PNG waters each year, but this is now decreasing as some are associated with the on shore investments in PNG and are fishing under the FSM arrangement.


Tuna product is exported in the form of fresh chilled, canned, fishmeal and frozen tuna. Chilled tuna is air freighted to the sashimi market in Japan. Frozen tuna is exported to Philippines and Taiwan, canned tuna mainly to USA, Germany and Great Britain with small quantities to the Melanesian Spearhead Group countries and fishmeal to Australia and Japan. More than 10,000mt of canned tuna is consumed locally per year. Export value is now about K200 million, a 100% increase from K100 million in 1999. This excludes catch by foreign vessels that pay access fees and take fish to overseas processors.

Resource management is a key factor in fisheries and in regard PNG has one of the largest observer programs in the region to collect data for management purposes. The programme has 65 trained observers who work on tuna vessels. They also cover non- tuna fishery vessels such as the prawn vessels, shark longline vessels, Handline vessels and those doing trial fishing. Observer coverage on vessels fishing under trial fishing permits is 100%. Port samplers are stationed at major ports to do sampling when vessels make port calls.

Some concessionary licences have been granted in conjunction with onshore investment in canneries in Madang and the loining plant in Wewak. These allow foreign vessels to operate as Domestic vessels to supply tuna to the canneries.

A couple of major projects are now complete. This includes the 200mt per day loining plant, the ADB funded wharves at Manus and Kavieng and the processing facility in Kavieng. Other projects in line includes the net mending facility in Manus, the three tuna processing plants in Lae, one fishing processing plant in Rabaul and plant by the Poseidon company Longline fishery operators are currently putting up small processing plants to do value adding in tuna. At least two of these plants are completed three more nearing completion.

Handline fishery has attracted a lot of interest and trial reports have shown to be positive. This fishery will be introduced at the latest by early 2004. The Mid-water trawl fishery has also attracted a lot of interest and there are currently a couple of proposals for consideration.