Shrimp Trawling in Papua New Guinea

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Besides industrial tuna fishing which occurs in the waters of all Pacific Island countries, the only other significant form of industrial fishing in the Pacific Islands region is shrimp trawling in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The history of the PNG shrimp trawl fishery is poorly documented. Philippson and Lindley (2005) indicate that the fishery began 36 years ago in the Gulf of Papua which is located in the south of Papua New Guinea. According to an individual working in Papua New Guinea in the mid-1970s (R. Kearney, personal communication), the first fishing was by an Australian shrimp company. This was followed by involvement of Japanese fishing companies in the early 1970s. Kailola (1995) gives some information on the development of the four shrimp trawl fisheries in PNG.

According to Philippson and Lindley (2005), the boats in the PNG shrimp trawl industry are universally old. None presently in the fleet are less than 15 years old and some are more than 30. Generally they are fully amortized. Boats change hand regularly in the fleet.

Production in the PNG shrimp trawl industry has been variable over the past two decades. About 600 tonnes of shrimp worth about US$4 million was exported in 2004.

Despite interest in experimental shrimp trawling in other parts of the Pacific Islands (e.g. New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga), no sustained fishing operations have developed. The main lesson learned from that work is that most Pacific Islands have conditions unfavourable for shrimp trawling due to rugged underwater topography, limited trawlable area, and extreme depths. Another important point is that the magnitude of shrimp trawling in the Pacific Islands is actually quite small compared with industrial tuna fishing, with the value of fishing for tuna being about 400 times greater.

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