31 Dec 2015

US frustrates Pacific countries with fishing deal reversal

1:18 pm on 31 December 2015

Pacific nations are reeling after the United States reneged on a signed deal to purchase over 6,000 fishing days for 2016.

During August negotiations, the US fleets demanded extra fishing days, despite needing less than expected in 2015.

Pacific nations complied with the request and signed the deal, worth more than 68 million US dollars.

A net filled with skipjack tuna coming out of the hold of a purse seine fishing vessel anchored in the Marshall Islands as it off-loads the fish to a mothership for transfer to Asian canneries.

Fishermen on a purse seine vessel in the Pacific. Photo: AFP

But with hours left in 2015, the US is adamant it won't pay a 17-million US dollar quarterly payment, derailing a treaty and risking not being licenced to fish at all.

The deputy director general of the Forum Fisheries Agency, Wez Norris, says the US has frustrated Pacific countries and brought economic uncertainty.

"Come 1 January, US vessels will have to tie up, so we're certainly doing everything we can to try to work out a way forward so that obviously the US vessels can continue fishing but more importantly the revenue that the Pacific islands countries have budgeted on for next year will actually flow through to them."

Wez Norris says it may be hard for Pacific countries to sell on the fishing days to other nations.

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