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No changes to foreign fishing company’s trading license: BTIB

Wednesday October 08, 2014 Written by Published in Economy
No changes to foreign fishing company’s trading license: BTIB

Local company Ocean Fresh’s concerns that government will approve the expansion of a foreign fishing firm’s operations in Rarotonga are baseless, says an official with the Business Trade and Investment Board (BTIB).

Last week, the BTIB approved Huanan Fisheries Ltd - a subsidiary of industry giant Luen Thai Fishing Venture – to supply two local retailers with a one-time October shipment of by-catch.
BTIB’s Chief Executive Terry Rangi said it will be the company’s final offloading until March 2015.
Currently, Huanan has a “very restrictive” license, said Rangi, which allows the company to offload by-catch – mostly mahi mahi and wahoo - during the peak tourism months from May to August.
Previously under a trial programme, the company had no restrictions as to when it could offload by-catch, and the seasonal clause was only added in March of this year.
According to a cabinet submission describing rationale for the seasonality clause, it was acknowledged that the supply of by-catch to the local market has resulted in cheaper fish for consumers, but that had come at a cost to the local industry.
Rangi said the period when the company offloads fish “... coincides with our busy months when there is not enough fish from our local suppliers”.
Huanan – which holds a number of longlining licenses that permits the company to fish for albacore tuna - is currently approved to supply by-catch to two local retailers – Prime Foods and Manea Foods – along with an entity called CI Smoked Seafoods.
Rangi said both Prime and Manea Foods lobbied the BTIB to permit Huanan to supply the local market, saying  the retailers experienced difficulty in sourcing locally-caught fish.
“Some consideration needs to be given to the two local retailers who provide jobs to many local families, pay local taxes and provide fish to our local consumers at reasonable prices,” he wrote in an email.
“This is not an issue about a foreign fishing company versus a local business, it’s a bit more complicated.”
In Saturday’s edition of CI News, Ocean Fresh Director Bill Doherty took out ad space to voice his concern on the effects of Huanan’s by-catch offloadings.
Doherty said BTIB has been instructed by the government to consider year-round, monthly offloadings of 50-70 tonnes of frozen fish.
The effect of such a license would have a detrimental effect on his company and local fishers, he said, and added the company benefits from the use of prisoners who unload the by-catch without pay or adequate clothing.
He said he pays annual wages of approximately $350,000 per year to 15 staff members, and questioned the BTIB’s ability to promote local businesses.
In response, Rangi said the BTIB’s board consists of five local business owners “... who have a vested interest in ensuring that the needs of local business is balanced with the needs of the community.”
“We reject the comments made by Bill Doherty over the business acumen of our Board. They support the principles of “Go local Support local” but this needs to have some balance,” he said.
In addition to its seasonal offloading of by-catch, Huanan is permitted to offload catches year-round for export to foreign markets.
 

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