We were starting to wonder what happened to the forecast December 2010 release of maricultured corals from SEASMART program in Papua New Guinea. Today it was announced that the loss of PNG government funding during the last quarter of 2010 halted the collection and export of PNG marine life for the SEASMART program.
The program was under a trial status receiving government funding that was due to end January 1, 2011 unless the PNG Government opted to extend the program. Due to the withholding of funding prematurely, EcoEZ — creator and manager of the PNG SEASMART Program — chose to seek legal action. Read on for more of the story and the official EcoEZ Press Release
As the rumors of problems surfaced, speculation soon followed and knowing the problems of past collection and farming operations, it really could have been anything causing the delay. According to SEASMART’s press release regarding this news, funding was withheld prematurely, leaving SEASMART without expected operating capital for the fourth quarter of 2010. There was a strong push to get SEASMART to be self-sustaining and profitable. The program poised to accomplish this but the lack of funds resulted in SEASMART being forced to halt sales and export operations. For the moment and for an indefinite amount of time into the future, there will not be any SEASMART exports from PNG.
In 2010, EcoEZ’s efforts to promote this sustainable collection program were finally getting traction and a SEASMART brand was taking shape. Being the keynote speaker at MACNA XXII this past year in Orlando and having the representatives of PNG present at the event to meet aquarists as well as buyers and importers, gave the program the exposure that seemed to be a turning point for SEASMART. Just as new demand was created, SEASMART entered Q4 in a sprint to demonstrable profit capability, while the program was left without the operational funding needed to meet new demand and to release the first round of maricultured coral.
We don’t know why SEASMART’s funding was withheld prematurely and do not have the Papua New Guinea government’s side of the story to clarify the situation. In speaking with journalist Ret Talbot today about this news, we learned that some SEASMART employees remain and the Port Moresby facility remains SEASMART property, but is currently shut down. Local fishers most likely have returned to other forms of fishing, and we assume the fledgling coral farming efforts are in need of attention.
What we do know is that this could not have happened at a worse time for a program that was on the path towards being self-sustaining and a tremendous value to the coastal communities who participated in this sustainable program. With ever increasing outside scrutiny and criticism towards the marine aquarium industry, SEASMART was one of the best examples to counteract the claims made by external detractors. This setback for SEASMART is also a setback for the marine aquarium industry as a whole.
There is still hope that this legal issue is quickly resolved for the benefit of all parties, but most especially the people of PNG who were dependent on this program and were shown this wonderful way to benefit from their natural resources in a sustainable fashion. We are very disheartened that just as the vision was starting to materialize — it was put on hold and the people of PNG left hanging.
EcoEZ’sofficial press release is below:
MANAGERS OF SEASMART TAKE LEGAL ACTION TO RECOVER FUNDS AND DELIVER SUSTAINABLY-COLLECTED AQUARIUM LIFE TO AQUARISTS
– Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG) –
EcoEZ, creator and manager of the PNG SEASMART Program, announced recently it is taking legal action to recover funds owed by the PNG National Fisheries Authority (NFA). SEASMART, the supplier of supply sustainably-collected marine aquarium animals from PNG, has been operating in the country since 2007 as part of a government subsidized trial program set to end after 2010. The withholding of funds during the last quarter of 2010 caused SEASMART to halt collection and export of PNG marine life. Recovering funds will allow the Program to resume operations and move forward with supplying sustainably-collected marine aquarium life to hobbyists in North America.
SEASMART gained widespread recognition amongst North American marine aquarists in 2010 as a result of, among other things, improvements in animal transit time and frequency from PNG to Los Angeles, the collection of some rare and high value species like the PNG lightning maroon clownfish, and increased interest in—and demand for—sustainably-collected aquarium animals. The keynote address at the 2010 Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (MACNA) featured representatives from EcoEZ, NFA, and the Office of the PNG Fisheries Minister, who all represented PNG and the SEASMART Program. This event further increased market demand for what were considered to be some of the best wild-caught animals available to sustainably-minded aquarists. The withholding of funds, which led to operations being shut down in the fall of 2010, meant that SEASMART could not meet that demand.
“The EcoEZ PNG SEASMART Program is committed to meeting the demand of aquarists who want to use their purchasing power to support sustainable wild collection,” said a SEASMART spokesperson. “Whether we move forward as part of an extended government trial program, as the private contractor working with NFA, or as an independent company working with provincial governments, we are committed to continuing to assist the people of PNG in creating and operating a truly sustainable marine aquarium fishery. Most parties to this Program, at all levels in PNG and beyond, would like to see the work continued and expanded.”
The SEASMART Program was founded as a joint venture between the Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority and U.S.-based EcoEZ. SEASMART has been working in Papua New Guinea since 2007 to establish a sustainable and equitable marine aquarium trade there.
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