| The Guardian | Judith Nielson Institute
SYDNEY - A $204 million (K527 million) Chinese-built fishery plant planned for a Papua New Guinean island could allow Chinese-backed commercial vessels to fish legally in the Torres Strait.
The plan has raised concerns about unregulated fishing in the same waters, potentially threatening the Australian industry and local PNG fishers.
China’s ministry of commerce this month announced a deal to establish a “comprehensive multi-functional fishery industrial park” project on Daru Island in Western Province.
The memorandum of understanding, which offered little detail, was signed by the Fujian Zhonghong Fishery Company, PNG fisheries minister, Lino Tom, and the governor of Western Province, Taboi Yoto.
The plant is expected to serve as a hub for fishing vessels coming into the region, and to process catches taken from the Torres Strait.
Under the Torres Strait Treaty, Australia and PNG are allowed to fish a shared area of the waters known as the protected zone, which straddles the fishing zones of the two countries.
Inside Australia’s zone, PNG boats may take 25% of the permitted tropical lobster catch and 40% of Spanish mackerel.
To date PNG has not had the capacity to commercially fish its share of these quotas, but the deal could attract Chinese funding for PNG-flagged vessels.
Warren Entsch, the MP for the north Queensland electorate of Leichhardt, said: “It’s certainly going to impact on our side of the fishery … but at the end of the day there is a treaty arrangement there.
“The biggest losers are going to be the treaty villages [of PNG’s Western Province]. They have no welfare system and bugger-all support from the PNG government.
“When they go out to fish to feed their families, there’s going to be nothing left.”
The Fuzhou-based Fujian Zhonghong Fishery Company, established in 2011, has a long involvement with PNG, mainly in fishing and seafood processing.
But Entsch said he held concerns over China’s track record in the region.
“You only have to look at what China has done in other places in the Pacific to ask the question of whose best interest it is in,” he said. “Is it in the best interest of the broader PNG community? I suspect not.”