Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said his Democratic Coalition for Change Government will be taking to Parliament a new fisheries legislation to ensure proper management of the country’s fisheries.
Mr Sogavare revealed this when he met with Tri Marine CEO Renato Curto yesterday afternoon to discuss the importance of maintaining access to the tuna market in the European Union (EU) for the tuna industry in Solomon Islands.
He said EU recently gave notice to the Solomon Islands Government to improve the way it manages the country’s fisheries else it will ban Solomon Islands exports to the EU.
Prime Minister Sogavare said he is directing the Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources to take whatever steps are necessary to correct the problems in the country’s fisheries management practices that have been highlighted by the EU.
He told Mr Curto that the continued operation of SolTuna and NFD is critically important to Solomon Islands economy and food security.
“SolTuna is a large scale tuna processing company. The high volume of its operation allows it to produce canned tuna at low cost which allows SolTuna to be an efficient, reliable and economical supplier of high quality canned tuna to our people.”
He said to maintain high levels of production and efficiency SolTuna needs access to foreign markets and those markets absorb more than half of SolTuna’s production.
“Without sales to those export markets, SolTuna would have to reduce the scale of its operations and reduce employment. Its costs would also increase to the point that it would not be economically viable.”
The Prime Minister said the EU is SolTuna’s most important export market totaling $266 million per annum by value and if it is to continue exporting its products to the EU, the government must improve the way it manages the fisheries sector.
“I understand and respect that the action taken is part of EU’s programme against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) and it applies to all countries that are exporting to the EU, some of which have already received similar notices. IUU is a practice that deprives Solomon Islands and its regional partners of our rightful benefits from these resources.”
“Indeed maintaining access to the EU market is critically important to Solomon Islands and the country should be a regional leader in good fishery management.
The Prime Minister said he will be requesting Parliament to pass a new Fisheries Act as a priority.
Furthermore, he said he will direct the Minister of Fisheries & Marine Resources to take whatever steps are necessary in order to correct the problems within our fishery management practices that have been highlighted by the EU,” he said.
In response, TriMarine CEO Mr Curto said Tri Marine is grateful for the ‘hospitality, fair treatment and support provided to NFD and SolTuna by the government.
“We are intensely proud of the accomplishments by the NFD and SolTuna management. They are doing a great job but all of that will be in vain if Soltuna is not able to export its products to the EU as a result of further sanctions,” he added.
SolTuna and National Fisheries Developments employ about 2,500 workers in the Solomon Islands. Together they are responsible for over $400m in export earnings and $65m in payments to the Solomon Islands government.
The Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources Hon John Maneniaru and his Permanent Secretary Dr Christian Ramofafia were also present at the meeting.