Fisheries Forum discusses challenges and opportunities

15/11/2012

A meet on Pacific fisheries in Auckland this week highlighted the challenges that the sector faces and the opportunities that could be tapped to sustainably grow the industry in the region. <!--more-->

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The Fisheries Forum 2012, themed “Hand in Hand, Investing Beyond Our Shore” brought together industry leaders from across the Pacific and New Zealand to discuss future partnership opportunities.

Among the many topics discussed were issues facing the Pacific tuna industry. Lack of skilled manpower in tuna fishing and canning; inefficient work habits of local labourers; High cost structure in tuna production and processing of canned tuna were among the challenges identified.

Fishing vessels tended to be small and combined with the lack of modern equipment as compared with foreign competitors fishing in the Pacific waters offered no economies of scale for Pacific operators.

Subsidies from the Chinese Government to the Chinese tuna industry put Pacific businesses at a severe disadvantage in selling their produce in the world market. Subsidies help Chinese tuna fisheries bring down the price of tuna products substantially lower than the production costs that unsubsidised Pacific businesses have to incur, there by creating a skewed playing field loaded against local operators.

Other challenges identified were the high cost of financing in the Pacific and the unavailability of insurance or its high cost when available. In Tonga, for instance, access to finance is almost impossible, according to a delegate from that country. Also it is hard if not impossible to obtain insurance for fishing vessels.

Also, Pacific labour costs were higher as compared to what the Chinese and Korean companies pay their fishermen.

The forum speakers identified the lack of leadership in the Fishing Industry Association as well as lack of political will to mitigate corruption on selling fishing licenses to foreigners.

However, speakers at the forum also identified a number of opportunities. Access to Asia Pacific markets especially Japan, Hong Kong and other European countries were seen as opportunities that could be easily tapped. Value added products and instead of exporting raw tuna to non-Japanese markets was seen as a worthwhile pursuit.

Speakers suggested partnership initiatives between New Zealand fishing companies and Pacific tuna fishing and processing companies to upgrade the skills of the Pacific people on tuna fishing and processing industry

Close collaboration of various agencies, such as Forum Fisheries Agency, Fishing Industry Association in the Pacific Islands to discuss issues, challenges, and strategic thrusts in the Pacific was also mooted. Pacific Cooperation Foundation organised the one-day event.

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