A wave of new fish processing facilities is galvanizing downstream activity across Papua New Guinea (PNG), paving the way for the USD 408 million fisheries sector to transform itself into a billion-dollar industry.

PNG's 3.1 million-sq-km fishing zone is the second-largest in the South Pacific, yielding up to 20 percent of the global annual tuna catch. However, until recently, the country was losing an estimated two-thirds of its potential downstream and value-added business due to a lack of domestic processing facilities.

A major policy change giving PNG greater control over the fleets operating in its waters has proved to be a key driver of industry growth.

Previously, operations were dominated by several bi-lateral annual access arrangements, which granted the fleets of signatory nations open access to PNG's fisheries zone. Under the newly introduced "vessel day" scheme, which was rolled out by the National Fisheries Authority (NFA), PNG can prioritize vessels opting to have their catch processed on its shores when distributing its fishing licenses.

The reform has triggered a wave of new investment, which is boosting downstream and value-added activities. Exports rose 26 percent to reach 91,267 metric tons (MT) last year, up from 72,114 MT in 2010. The industry's domestic processing capacities are expected to more than double by 2015.

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