EcoEZ Inc. SEASMART Program appears to be very exciting to every community we visit. There are always more interested people than what we would recommend participating and what the local fishery could support. Some interest is based upon the fact that this is a new project and people are simply interested in trying something different or exciting. Others believe they will make an easy income from collecting such small, colorful fish near their village. Regardless of the reason, participants are sometimes surprised at the demands and challenges of collecting and holding marine aquarium life properly. Catching the fish is often quite challenging and great care is required to ensure they are not damaged during collection and holding. Some fishers learn the collection techniques rather quickly while others take some time to learn and improve their skills; some are simply not capable of collecting enough fish to keep their interest and motivation peaked.
Fisher productivity is very important to the export operations and there are several factors that promote or hinder fisher productivity. The major force that can affect collection is the weather. As was discussed previously, weather and ocean currents can be so strong as to prevent any fishing at all, while often times the weather simply makes collection more challenging. Another factor, which hinders fisher productivity, is access, or rather no access to boats. Often times, fishers must rent a dinghy, get credit for fuel and plan to participate with other fishers to share in these costs.
One major motivator, which greatly affects fisher productivity, is of course the need and desire to earn money. Fishers also have different goals with regard to how much income they strive to earn. Some are quite happy with a little extra money for betelnut and/or cigarettes. Others work harder and earn a rather significant “supplemental income.” The most determined fishers are very motivated; they work hard and smart and consequently earn quite a significant “primary income.” Interestingly, several female collectors have regularly earned more income than the male fishers. Some female fishers are regularly earning K 200 to K 300 + in only 2 to 3 days of collection. This is a powerful motivator for the fishers.
The volume and variety of marine aquarium life which the SEASMART Program has access to is critical to the future growth and success of the program and more importantly, the future of an equitable, profitable & sustainable marine aquarium life trade in PNG.
Initially, during the first several months of the marine aquarium life trade being developed in PNG, many buyers/importers in the United States were very excited about the potential for new species found in PNG and a new source of responsibly collected organisms. There was also a level of mystery and promise of many new, previously not collected species to come from a country where the marine aquarium trade had never been established, and is well known to be in a part of the world where coral reef biological diversity is greatest. In addition to a few previously unavailable, and/or uncommon species, PNG is home to many favorite, highly demanded species of marine aquarium life like the Percula Clownfish and Blue Tang. These are two key species, and are now a part of every order/export. While Percula Clownfish are available year round, Blue Tang are much more “seasonal” in nature. Blue Tang can almost always be found, however, the small and medium specimens, which are the most demanded sizes, are only available at certain times of the year. The most demanded size of this species is from 1 or 1.5 inches to 4 inches and due to the reproductive cycles of this species, these size fish are most abundant during the months of July, August & September. These are a fast growing fish and attain their adult size rather quickly. Ironically, the months when the appropriate sized fish are most abundant, the U.S. market is at it’s slowest as this is summer time in the country and most hobbyists revert to outdoor activities. Blue Tang however continue to “sell out” most of the time. SEASMART Program Resource Assessment and Management (RAM) division has mapped out the geographic locations and seasonal patterns of key species in the trade to assist in collection and exports.
Weather conditions also play a significant role in fishers’ ability to collect from the sea. Strong windy seasons make it much more difficult, and often more costly to collect aquarium life. These factors must be taken into consideration by exporters and importers alike, as certain key species may not be as readily available, or not available in desired quantities at certain times of the year.
Purpose of Licensing
The purpose of licensing is to effectively control the effort of resource extraction in line with prescibed total allowable catch limitations to ensure health of marine ecosystems in order to maintain longer term sustainability of resources and their natural value to human societies. Licensing regim will also be a mechanism for monitoring and regulating activities of the licence holders.
Types of Licenses
Types of licenses needed in the marine aquarium trade are:
- Baseline Resource Survey and Trial Fishing License – The licensing authority would issue this particular license through the normal process of application to allow the license holder to undertake baseline resource assessment and at the sametime conduct trial fishing as a component of the study but these activities cannot be carried separately from each other.
- Fish Buyer’s License – The licensing authority would issue this particular license through the normal process of application to allow the license holder to buy marine aquarium species from MAC certified FMAs comprising fully certified fishers thus eliminating involvement of unauthorized persons or entities.
- Export Facility Holding License – The licensing authority would issue this particular license through the normal process of application to allow the license holder to hold or store marine aquarium organisms in a fully certified export facility during the time of purging or while waiting to finalize export details with customers. This is to ensure that the Export Facility has the required capacity to hold or store marine aquarium organisms prior to export in order to maintain products’ natural condition therefore able to fetch a premium price.
- Facility Export License – The licensing authority would issue this particular license through the normal process of application to allow the license holder to export marine aquarium organisms from the licensed Export Facility.
What Should Be Licensed
All activities encompassing baseline resource surveys, trial fishing activities, buying of marine aquarium organisms, hold or storage of marine aquarium organisms at the time of purging inside a licensed Export Facility and the undertaking of exporting marine aquarium organisms are to be licensed.
Who Should Be Licensed
Persons or entities intending to be engaged in baseline resource surveys, trial fishing activities, buying of marine aquarium organisms, hold or store marine aquarium organisms at the time of purging inside a licensed Export Facility and the undertaking export of marine aquarium organisms are to be licensed.
Period Of License
The licences stated here would be vaild upon issuance of licenses and shall remain effective as long as the required licence fees are fully paid for renewal annually.
Licensing Fee Structure
Annual licence fee for the Baseline Resource Survey and Trial Fishing License is K3,000.00.
Annual licence fee for the Fish Buyer’s License is K3,000.00.
Annual licence fee for the Export Facility Holding License is K3,000.00
Annual licence fee for the Facility Export License is K3,000.00.
Purpose of Certification
The purpose of Certification is to confirm that required bench mark of standard business best practice have been attained and fully satisfied thus gurantteeing the certified service provider as producer of quality products.
Types Of Certification
- Export Facility Compliant Certificate – This Compliant Certificate confirms that an Export Facility after thorough assessment of its inbuilt structures, systems and procedures has fully satisfied all the required compliant standards and therefore has been certified as a compliant Export Facility, thus allowing it to undertake export of marine aquarium organisms.
- Fisher Training Certificate – A fisher is awarded a Fisher Training Certificate after successfully completing a competency skills training program applicable to the sustainable development of the marine aquarium fishery conducted by an accredidated training service provider, therefore enabling the fisher with essential knowledge to actively participate in the marine aquarium fishery.
The high cost of internal and external shipping and the extensive route limitations of Air Niugini (ANG) continue to be one of the more pressing issues facing this trade (and all live fish trades). Matching PNG’s competitor’s (Indonesia and the Philippines) shipping costs has been a struggle and has limited our country’s ability to sell to many buyers. Shipping costs from PNG are significantly higher than our competitors in most markets and substantially higher in others. The cost of internal shipping from the outer Provinces is also a serious constraint on trade development but can be borne more easily by adjusting prices paid to fishers to cover the costs of shipping – fishers and their communities, however, will end up bearing the costs of Air Niugini’s uncompetitive high rates.
These extraordinarily high rates will also limit the amount of species that are cost effective to ship from the more distant Provinces. Externally we are continuing to make progress in opening up new global export markets and routes.