Positives of COVID-19 for the WCPO tuna supply chain

Categories News, NewsPosted on

HONIARA – Despite the threat of COVID-19 to global tuna production, production chains in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean have continued to operate efficiently. Credit is due to the measures the industry has taken to keep up normal tuna production.

As the world continues to focus on the deadly coronavirus, fishers and others in the fishing industry are working around the clock to continue providing healthy and safe wild food like tuna to the global market.

A spokesperson for the Fong Chun Formosa (CFC) fisheries company in Taiwan, Ray Clarke, said COVID-19 had brought positives to the tuna industry in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). The industry had at this stage remained relatively stable, organised and efficient. 

The WCPO tuna industry, and its associated supply chain, had so far proven to be relatively robust, and without sacrificing important sustainability and social transparency requirements, he said.

However, Sancho Kim, the Operation and Sales Manager at the Korea-based Silla fishing company, said that travel restrictions and the forced closure of most PNA ports had had an impact on tuna fishing in the region.

“I fully understand those measures are to ensure their safety and life. However, as fishermen, due to those measures, we are having many difficulties with transhipment, crew issues, supplying provisions, et cetera,” Mr Kim said.

The CEO of Silla, Tuna Lee, said that canned tuna was one of the best emergency foods to have because tuna was wild-caught, healthy food and also kept for a long time when canned.

“I think not only fishermen, but also all stakeholders such as canneries, brand owners, can sellers, PNA, FFA, and RFMOs should do their best to supply healthy and safe food to all peoples continuously,” said Mr Lee.

All eyes on canned tuna 

“People started to put their eyes on canned tuna products, as it has longer validity to keep and consume, as well as being rich in nutrition at a comparatively cheaper price than other food categories,” Mr Lee said.

“Taste will last for a while for canned tuna, and it will help to promote tuna consumption overall on a long-term basisfor Silla.”

The CEO of the Frabelle fishing corporation in the Philippines, Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jnr, said demand for retail packs of canned tuna would increase, but demand for catering packs would drop.

“One positive thing is that our industry will continue despite COVID-19, as people have to eat and canned tuna is one of the healthiest foods for people that is shelf-steady. It can be kept for many years, unlike other foods in other industries that are forced to shut down at this time,” Mr Laurel said.

Thai Union’s General Manager, Narin Niruttinanon, said there had been a marginal increase in global demand for canned tuna. 

Composite of two images of canned tuna, one SolTuna and Solomons Blu cans, the other Bumble Bee can
Left: SolTuna cannery products (photo Intra Fish). Right: Bumble Bee canned tuna.


“All the increase has been in retail or supermarkets, while food-service and restaurant orders have largely been delayed or cancelled,” Mr Niruttinanon said.

“The experience from the previous disasters would suggest that people largely bought canned food to give themselves a sense of security. How quickly they actually consume those cans is an entirely different question. 

“Although COVID-19 may continue for months to come, as long as the global logistics systems are still functioning quite normally – and this is surely a top priority of all governments – I still cannot imagine a serious food shortage that will force people to only eat food from emergency stock. 

“On the other hand, once the world comes out of this COVID-19 episode, I am concerned about a serious drop in demand for canned tuna in retail and supermarkets. But, hopefully, the food-service and restaurant markets may come back to add some cushioning for the industry,” Mr Niruttinanon said.

Mr Niruttinanon said the company had implemented health assessment and hygiene practices for its 40,000 Thai workers to maintain operations as close to normal as possible. It has also donated product worth 1 million Thai baht to Bangkok communities that had been affected by COVID-19.

Ray Clarke of the FCF fisheries company in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, said they had seen considerably increased demand for their canned tuna products as consumers stocked up to sit through periods of social distancing. 

“The demand for canned tuna is especially strong at the moment. Fresh-fish operations were initially hurt considerably, and we have had to take actions to ensure the health and safety of all of our crew, officers, employees and staff,” Mr Clarke said.

Man standing next to flat table-like area that has empty cans for tuna sitting on it in factory with corrugated metal walls. Photo Francisco Blaha
Proud tuna worker, Solomon Islands. Photo: Francisco Blaha

Fishing companies monitor the situation closely

He said FCF was closely monitoring the situation – a challenge, as monitoring involved several countries. 

“For instance, here in Kaohsiung, things have been relatively safe, thanks to early action by the government of Taiwan, which took actions including requiring masks in public, and initiating COVID-19 testing. So here we seem to have controlled, to the degree possible, the spread of the virus. 

“We are closely monitoring the health and safety of our vessels, captains and crew, as well as the health and safety of processing-facility workers, especially in places like Wewak, Papua New Guinea. We are making sure that all of the captains and crew either stay on the COVID-19-free vessels – at their concurrence – or we ensure they return to their home countries in a manner that reduces any exposure to the virus,” Mr Clarke said.

“We are working with our customers to ensure all their needs and concerns are addressed. At this point, other than in a few minor instances, I believe we have been successful in this regard.” 

Mr Clarke said he had come to appreciate much more any face-to-face interactions he has had with people since the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Chiefly, the outbreak has emphasised the importance of interpersonal interaction. Although video conferences, telephone calls and emails provide useful communication platforms, it remains important to interact safely with colleagues, staff and customers. 

“I have come to value those human-to-human interactions even more.”

Local management means operations kept at near-normal

At Noro in Solomon Islands, operations at the SolTuna cannery are normal, despite the scaling down of workers. Even though it is partly owned by the United States-based Trimarine, most managers are locals, unlike the management of some other tuna companies in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

The cannery is supplied solely by the National Fisheries Development purse-seine fleet; and in the absence of the expatriate workers, the operations at the cannery are normal.

Joe Hamby, a board member of SolTuna Fishing Company, said they had learnt a lot from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Because SolTuna’s management and staff are almost all Solomon Islanders, we can continue to operate during periods when expatriates have had to evacuate back to their home countries,” Mr Hamby said. “By contrast, despite COVID-19, SolTuna has continued to safely produce badly needed food for both the domestic and export markets.”

Aerial photo of Noro, Solomon Islands, with inset photo of can of Ocean Naturals skipjack tuna. Photo Solomon Star
The tuna township of Noro, Solomon Islands, with (inset) one of the products it exports to the US market. Photo: Solomon Star.

Accuracy and speed needed to prepare tuna for same-day delivery around the world

Categories The tuna picture, VideosPosted on

The people who cut up tuna at the Marshall Islands Fishing Venture (MIFV) processing facility in Majuro make it look easy – but there’s a lot of skill involved in working so quickly and accurately.

The tuna in this video, yellowfin and bigeye, is destined for tables in the United States, Canada and Japan. The factory is supplied by a fleet of locally based longline fishing boats, and the MIFV workers process the tuna for same-day air delivery via Asia Pacific Airlines (APA) to the overseas markets.

MIFV and APA are subsidiaries of Luen Thai Fishing Venture, which also operates a longline tuna processing operation in Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. It is similar to the one in Majuro. Luen Thai is one of the largest fishing and seafood companies in the Asia–Pacific region. Its integrated fishing business provides services such as base operations, logistics, and the processing and marketing of tuna and other seafood products to customers in the South Pacific, Japan and other eastern Asian countries, the US, and Europe. 

Video by Hilary Hosia, Marshall Islands Journal

Fisheries sector ‘key economic driver’ in Pacific Islands states

Categories NewsPosted on

Republished from The National, 15 September 2017

 

The fisheries sector will be a key economic driver in the region if tuna is processed in the Pacific Islands states, according to the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association.

Association chief executive John Maefiti spoke of the challenges and opportunities in growing Pacific Islands-based tuna fishing and processing industries during the regional tuna industry and trade conference in Port Moresby on Wednesday.

He said there were foreign resource-user boats in the region which went in every year to get access licence from the Pacific Island states.

“They will go fishing and when they get a full catch, they then offload the fish to bigger ships which transported them to Bangkok in Thailand and other countries to be processed and then re-exported by Europe and United States markets,” Maefiti said.

“We should ask why most of the fish are processed outside the countries that they were caught in. Because if they are processed in the Pacific Islands States, the fisheries sector could be the key economic driver in the region.”

Maefiti said the regional body represented the national associations in the region.

“We were established in 2005 and our key objective is to provide the united voice for our members on issues that affect our business interests in the region.”

No more breadcrumbs for Pacific Island fisheries

Categories NewsPosted on

Republished from Papua New Guinea Today, September 2017

 

Now is the time for Pacific Island Nations to work together to end predatory behavior by companies that take unfair advantage in the fisheries sector, so that value can be added to exports.

This was the message from Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neill CMG MP, speaking at the Pacific Islands Forum Private Sector Dialogue on Ocean Commerce today.

PM O’Neill said the political strength of Pacific Island Nations to correct inappropriate practices is often underestimated.

“In the Pacific we are small in population, but we can be very influential when we work together in the global community,” PM O’Neill said.

“The ocean territory our countries occupy is vast, and has an abundance of marine resources.

“Too often the great wealth that belongs to the people of the Pacific has been exploited and taken to foreign shores.

“For many years in Papua New Guinea we had been licensing foreign vessels to fish in our waters.

“This delivered minimal benefit for our economy and did not create any jobs for our people, while our fish stocks were seriously damaged.

“Manufacturers from other countries had also taken advantage of inefficiencies in the sector and only ever processed the bare minimum.”

The Prime Minister said the Government reached a point where enough was enough, and is now making deliberate interventions where exploitation is taking place.

“We are now changing the dynamics of the fisheries sector in our country so that we do not let foreign companies take away the wealth and simply leave breadcrumbs behind.

“We are getting behind our fisheries sector to stimulate growth in onshore fish processing.

“This proactive approach is creating thousands of jobs, increasing revenue and providing jobs for young fishermen.

“We are pursuing this agenda vigorously and we will work through the Forum and with our parents to stimulate reform around the Pacific.

“All Pacific Nations have the right to protect their marine resources and to draw value from these resources for their people and their economies.

“When we review licensing arrangements that we have in our countries, and the arrangements we have for processing, we can work together in the Pacific to add value together.

“Only by working together can we protect revenue in our countries, create jobs and make sure revenue goes to the right people.”