Papua New Guinea tuna factories threaten regional ecology, livelihoods

By Klaus Schenk and Diet Simon

With its large schools of tuna the South Pacific off Papua New Guinea ranks as one of the last rich fisheries of the world’s oceans. Ten large tuna factories are now to be built in the coastal city of Madang with the help of the World Bank. Within a few years industrial tuna harvesting would destroy the region’s rich fish stocks and irrevocably destroy Madang’s beautiful coast. Please support the local people’s protest against these plans by signing a prepared letter.

Tranquil Madang has for some years been increasingly targeted by foreign development projects to exploit the rich fishing grounds off its coast.

Local people have hardly any say in these projects, nor do they profit from them.

Now the World Bank, together with the Papua New Guinean government, China and Japan are planning 10 new tuna factories with storage halls and worker accommodations.

The Philippine company RD Tuna also intends to invest. It already operates fish factories in Papua New Guinea that have several times been criticised, and has closed down some of them because of disastrous hygienic conditions.

Planned is a USD 300 million “Pacific Marine Industrial Zone” (PMIZ) along the coast around Madang. The PMIZ’s aim is to harvest the rich tuna stocks of the region. Processing works, port installations and storage halls will have to be built.

The industrial fishing of the local grounds would make it impossible for local people to live off fishing as they have done traditionally. Few of them would get jobs in the new factories.

The Papua New Guinean government is planning huge accommodations for unskilled workers from Asian countries. The already high unemployment in the Madang area would rise further.

But not least, the exploitation of the fishing grounds would impact disastrously on the regional eco-system.

Industrial overfishing and illegal catches would wipe out Papua New Guinea’s tuna stocks within a few years.

The first sod for the PMIZ project was turned in June. Since the 15th of October local people have been protesting against the construction of the factories, fearing for their environment, their jobs and their homeland.

Please write to the World Bank, the Papua New Guinea government and the local fishing industry to stop the PMIZ plans. A ready-to-go protest letter is available.

Earlier coverage in May 2009.