Monday, February 03, 2014

Sylvester Pokajam steps down as PNG fisheries boss

MAJURO, Marshall Islands — A long-serving Papua New Guinea fisheries chief who is expected to step down this week was recognised Wednesday for “transforming fisheries” in his country and for his regional advocacy on behalf of island nations’ fishing interests.
Sylvester Pokajam, managing director of PNG’s National Fisheries Authority or NFA, is being replaced by deputy John Kasu in a move by the government’s cabinet, according to reports.
Pokajam during his term as PNG fisheries chief.

Pokajam has headed PNG’s fisheries office during a time of unprecedented expansion of domestic fish processing plants and played a key role in the development of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement or PNA fisheries bloc. He is reportedly the longest serving head of a government department, having held the NFA post for about 10 years through several governments.
“He ran a good organisation, which is reflected in the huge fisheries investments in PNG,” said Dr. Transform Aqorau on Wednesday.
Aqorau is the CEO of PNA, based in the Marshall Islands. “Sylvester deserves credit for transforming PNG fisheries.”
Aqorau, who is from the Solomon Islands, has worked in national fisheries in the Solomons, for the Forum Fisheries Agency and in recent years for PNA. “When I started in fisheries, there were no on-shore investments in PNG,” he said. But PNG now leverages the issuance of fishing licenses with investment requirements for distant water fishing nations. “He created an environment encouraging on-shore investments,” said Aqorau.
But Pokajam was also keenly focused on fisheries work in the region, and put up NFA money to support regional stock assessments.
PNG fisheries’ money was crucial to fully establishing the Majuro-based PNA office that has helped quadruple revenue from fishing fees to the eight PNA member nations over the past four years. “In 2009, PNG put up $1 million to support establishment of the PNA office,” Aqorau said, adding Pokajam was outspoken in support of Pacific interests at international fisheries meetings. “We will miss his great advocacy for the Pacific islands,” said Aqorau. “He made his mark.”
Pokajam’s departure “will leave a big gap in the region,” said colleague Maurice Brownjohn, a founding member of the NFA board established in 1995 who continues on that board while currently working as commercial manager for the PNA, based in Majuro.

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