14 Mar 2003

US and FFA sign new 10-year arrangement

12:06 pm on 14 March 2003

United States and Pacific islands' fisheries agency officials have signed a 10-year economic package giving US fishermen continued access to the Pacific region.

The director of the Forum Fisheries Agency, Feleti Teo, and US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, Michael Senko, signed an agreement that commits the US government to pay 18 million US dollars a year for fishing access rights to the region.

The US tuna industry will fund an additional 3 million dollars a year for 10 years.

The current treaty expires in June and Mr Teo urged all of the Pacific member nations to speedily approve the new treaty so that there will be no gaps in the treaty and funding.

The new licence period is an extension of a treaty that has been in effect for 15 years, allowing 45 US vessels to fish for tuna in the Pacific.

Meanwhile, Australia has begun moves to ratify an agreement aimed at conserving tuna and other fish stocks in the western and central Pacific Ocean.

In a joint statement, the fisheries minister, Ian Macdonald, and the foreign minister, Alexander Downer, say the convention would cover tuna resources shared by Australia and Pacific island nations.

The ministers say tuna and billfish stocks were important to Australia's recreational and charter fishing industries.