By Andrew Hobbs

THE FIRST load of skipjack tuna certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has arrived at the Wewak processing facilities of the South Seas Tuna Corporation (SSTC) for processing.

Fong Chun Formosa (FCF) Fishery Company announced the 290 metric tonnes of skipjack tuna were harvested by its associated purse seiners and carried from Majuro, in the Marshall Islands, to Wewak for processing.

The fish were all caught under the sustainability standards introduced by the MSC when fishing from the waters of member countries in the Parties of Nauru Agreement (PNA) – those being Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Papua New Guinea.

In January of this year, FCF made a public commitment to adhere to MSC sustainability standards while trading tuna harvested from PNA waters, which together supply 50 per cent of the world’s entire skipjack tuna.

Under the agreement, FCF ensures traceability and reporting of fish harvesting, transportation, and processing into semi-finished and finished products.

Currently, more than 60 FCF-associated fishing vessels are MSC-certified, the company said in an announcement.

PNA Fisheries commercial manager Maurice Brownjohn said the group had been looking forward to this day for many years.

“It is always a pleasure to partner with companies like FCF and SSTC, which harvest, process and market PNA fish in an environmentally conscious and ethical manner; as well as to see fish delivered by carrier to local plants and processed in the region,” he said.

FCF chief executive WH Lee said the company had been a fisheries leader in the region for more than 30 years.

“This investment advances our production and sustainable operations capabilities while adding up to 700 additional labour jobs in Wewak,” he said.

The SSTC facility employs 1,540 people, with that figure to rise to 2,000 jobs by the end of 2015 as production volume increases.

SSTC plans to invest US$3.5 million in capital expenditure to increase its production capacity to 160 tonnes per day, FCF said.

But an SSTC spokeswoman told PNG Resources that SSTC plans to produce 30,700 tonnes in 2015 – all of which is to come from FCF, for export into the European market.

SSTC president Mike McCulley said the group was excited to begin sustainable processing at its PNG base.

“This environmental approach and strategic partnerships with local leaders are not only a boost to the Wewak economy; these measures also help ensure a sustainable and plentiful fishery for the Pacific Island Nations for generations to come.