CEO hooked on tuna


Being stranded for five years on Bougainville Island because of the civil conflict failed to deter Ludwig Kumoru, CEO of Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), from developing a career in the fishing industry.

The Western and Central Pacific Ocean has one of the healthiest tuna stocks in the planet, according to PNA. Credit: PNA

Determined to use his science degree in the fishing industry, he eventually worked his way out of Bougainville.

Kumoru began his fishing industry work as a research scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources in December 1994, in Port Moresby.

At the time, tuna management was just kicking off in PNG, so Kumoru became involved in monitoring the country’s tuna fishing industry.

After six years, when the department was restructured to become the National Fisheries Authority, he was appointed Tuna Fishery Manager, a position he held for 10 years, before joining the region’s premier fishing organisation, the 15-member Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), in the Marshall Islands.

The PNA controls the world’s largest sustainable tuna area.

Meant to be

PNA’s CEO Ludwig Kumoru

However, Kumoru says he almost never got involved in the industry in the first place because of the Bougainville civil conflict.

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Kumoru was born in Ororo village, population 500, in South Bougainville. After a Catholic education, including boarding school at St Joseph’s High School in central Bougainville, he was selected to attend Sogeri National High School in Port Moresby to finish high school. In 1984, he went to the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), graduating with a bachelor’s degree in science in 1987 and a postgraduate diploma in education in 1988.

He’d applied for work at the Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources, and decided to go home to Bougainville for the holidays at the end of 1989.

It turned out to be a disastrous decision.

‘I remembered the fisheries department phone number in Port Moresby, so I tried the number. Someone I knew answered. They said they thought I was dead.’

During and after the war ended, there was a gods and services  embargo on Bougainville by the national government. ‘There were no shops, no phones, no newspapers. If you saw a bit of typed paper on the ground, you’d immediately pick it up to read. We were starved for reading material.’

Five years after the conflict, while on a field trip to the northern part of Bougainville, Kumoru noticed a public phone. ‘I remembered the Fisheries Department phone number in Port Moresby, so I tried the number. Someone I knew answered.

‘They said they thought I was dead. I told them I’d applied for a job while I was at UPNG, but then hadn’t been able to get out of Bougainville.’ As luck would have it, the person said the same position had been recently re-advertised. Kumoru applied that night and got the job.

Achievements at PNA

He rose through the ranks and was Deputy Managing Director of the National Fisheries Authority when the PNA Chief Executive Officer position became available.

He sees his role with the PNA as empowering Pacific nations to manage fisheries and protect their rights. His most successful achievements have been to professionalise the PNA, sorting out administrative processes, creating a new strategic plan, and constructing new headquarters.

Majuro in the Marshall Islands is a good place to live, he says. His wife, Demiana, is working at the local college and his teenage children have been educated there.

‘People are honest and there isn’t much crime,’ he says. ‘Recently, I left my computer and mobile phone in a taxi. I thought I’d never see them again. But our office put an announcement on the radio station and the next day, the driver showed up with my bag. Nothing was taken.

‘Majuro is that kind of a place.’

This story was first published in the May-June edition of Paradise, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini. 

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