Majestic Seafood, makers of canned tuna products in Lae, Papua New Guinea has shut down operations as a result of a shortfall in fish supply.
Over 5,000 staff of the company are now redundant.
Emmanuel Pari, speaking on behalf of the affected employees, said they were told last Monday (12 June) that the company would shut down operations because of the high price of tuna.
“For most of us, this employment was our only source of survival and we are confused,” Pari said.
“It does not just affect us but it affects our families as well.”
He said staff who had served the company for more than 15 years needed to be compensated in terms of entitlements.
“The company gave assurances through its HR department that all our entitlements would be paid to us this week and there has not been any further notice,” he said.
The company’s management said it had not made any formal announcements on entitlements but confirmed that employees who were made redundant would be given employment references.
Pari also called on the Government to ensure a new investor in the fish canning space was brought in soon.
That might be easier said than done as the issue of fish shortage is serious enough to put the country’s other four fish canners in serious jeopardy according to the Fishing Industry Association chairman Sylvester Pokajam.
The leading fish canners in PNG are Frabelle (PNG) Ltd, Majesitc Seafood Corporation Ltd, International Food Corporation Ltd, RD Tuna Canners and South Seas Tuna Corporation.
Pokajam told The National that certain high fees charged daily for fish catches were responsible for the shortage.
Pokajam explained that prior to 2018 fishing in PNG waters was conducted free of charge.
Since 2018, fishing vessels attached to the five fish canneries in the country had been charged US$10,500 (about K36,960) per day under a Vessel Day Scheme to fish in PNG waters to catch fish to supply their respective canneries.
“This was a really high price to pay for fishing in the country so many of the fishing vessels of those canneries have ceased fishing.” Pokajam said.
He said the government did move to incentivise the industry by reducing the vessel day scheme from US$10,500 (K36,960) to US$6,500 (K22,880) for PNG-based vessels and US$7,500 (K26,400) for international vessels based in the country. “But that directly resulted in low fish supply for processing onshore. This was the situation that Majestic Seafood in Lae was in right now which has left over 5,500 factory workers redundant,” he said.