By Viola Ulakai, Pacific Media@WCPFC13
The challenges faced by Tonga’s fishing industry will get a higher profile aft as a result of the relaunch of the Pacific Tuna Industry Association’s website this week in Nadi
The relaunching was held as one of the side events associated with the 13th session of the Western and Central Pacific Commission (WCPFC).
PITIA is a regional body for national fisheries associations in the Pacific Island Countries except Australia, New Zealand and Tokelau.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry, PITIA was located in Nuku’alofa before its Executive Board’s decision to relocated it to Honiara late last year.
At the launching event, chairman of PITIA Mr Frank Wickham said there are many challenges that domestic companies are facing in the fishing industry and there is a belief that tools such as the website and the media engagement and partnerships will help their members.
Commercial fishing of tuna is the primary focus of PITIA. It also represents its members’ commercial interest at policy making forums of their respective Governments.
The representation of the interest of the industry is crucial to both the economic sustainability of the domestic industry as well as the enhancing of compliance of such policies.
PITIA has achieved observer status at several crucial policy forums and is the recognized industry representative to Forum Fisheries Committee meeting.
According to PITIA promotion of sustainable fishing behaviour, which adds value to the economy is another important role for PITIA.
The Pacific tuna industry, including the industry in Tonga, is facific some serious challenges.
Complaints recently raised in Tonga’s Parliament revealed local fishing vessels have to compete with larger Asian heavily-subsided fishing vessels which are more efficient.
High port fees and other related costs, the imposing of consumption tax on fishing primary industry product plus others are also holding the Tongan fishing industry back according to the National Fisheries Association.
In an earlier interview with Radio Tonga News during the 13th WCPFC this week, the Hon Minister of Fisheries Semisi Fakahau said the government has done a trial exercise aiming to bring down the cost of fish in the local market.
He said the local fishing companies and foreign registered vessels have agreed to off-load to the local market 5 tons from each trip in a very low price.
During the re-launching of the PITIA website, the Environmental Development Fund (EDF) senior manager Sarah O’Brian congratulated PITIA on the initiative saying she hoped the website would give the industry association a stronger voice and help it achieve its goals.
PITIA CEO John Maefiti in thanking EDF for funding the relaunching of the website told the gathering that when people want to buy fish from the Pacific Ocean they send their orders to Thailand, Japan and the Philippines, when they should send their orders to the Pacific Islands where the tuna comes from.
Contact details of the companies that are operating in the Pacific will be available on the website so now when people want to order tuna, they can just go online and buy a Pacific product.