Gulf Papua Fisheries, one of PNG’s leading prawn fishing companies, is fully owned by the citizens of Gulf Province through their Provincial Government. The company specialises in the harvesting and processing of natural prawns from the waters of the Gulf of Papua. It owns and operates four prawn trawlers and exports most of its catch to Japan under the Gulf Star brand name.
The trawlers, each with about 17 crew, spend 30 to 40 days at sea on each trip. Using a beam trawling method, the fishermen bring on board a mixture of prawn species with names like ‘Black Tigers’ and ‘White Bananas’. The sorting and packing of the catch is done at sea and the trawler can arrive back with up to 20 tonnes of prawns, frozen and ready for export. Over a year, the total catch is about 300 tonnes, with earnings amounting to over three million US dollars.
Gulf Papua Fisheries’ success can be attributed to wise management practices and a dedicated workforce.Prior to Independence the prawn industry was dominated by foreign operators, mainly Japanese. After Independence a joint venture was set up between a Japanese company and the Gulf Provincial Government. By 1984 it had become clear that this arrangement was not adequately benefiting the Papuan side. The provincial premier decided to terminate the agreement and, under the leadership of Mr Hiro Muramoto, a joint national and expatriate management initiative was put to the PNG Government, making the case for nationalisation.
Gulf Papua Fisheries started as a two kina company i n the same year, acquiring two old boats from the Japanese company. After painful years of reinvestment, it has replaced these with new boats and has added others. Now it has paid up share capital of K876,000. The present Managing Director, Mr Sepoe Karawa, sees future development taking the form of co-operative ownership, firstly with company’s own 90-strong workforce and then with the resource owners of Gulf Province, those coastal villagers who often, in the past, have not benefited from the commercial exploitation of their waters.