3 Mar 2016

US tuna treaty deal salvaged for 2016

8:26 pm on 3 March 2016

The Forum Fisheries Agency says US vessels are to resume tuna fishing in the region in a matter of days, thanks to an extraordinary effort on the part of Pacific island countries.

In January, the US pulled out of a 30-year-old fisheries deal with the Pacific, after earlier committing to pay FFA members US$89 million for the right to fish in the region in 2016.

The FFA said the Pacific offered the US a revised package with fewer fishing days, reducing the required payment committment to US$66 million.

It says Pacific countries will now sell unused fishing days to other fishing fleets, including domestic operators, although the rates of financial return may not be as high as the rate agreed under the US interim arrangement because the fishing year is already underway.

The director general of the  Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency, James Movick, Tuvalu Minister Elisala Pita  and the Agency's deputy director general Wez Norris.

From left to right: the director general of the Forum Fisheries Agency, James Movick, Tuvalu Minister Elisala Pita and the Agency's deputy director general Wez Norris. Photo: Supplied/ Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency

The FFA director general, James Movick, said it has taken a lot of effort and compromise for 17 Pacific governments to come together and agree to accept the new US request.

"I'm satisfied that it meets members needs and capabilities at this time. I think what satisfied me the most is not so much the outcome that we offered to the US in reduced number of days, but the fact, that Pacific Islands sense of commitment to maintain a strong regional position."

Mr Movick said it was now important to move on to the challenge of ensuring beneficial long-term future arrangements.

"Moving forward, the key will be flexibility," said Mr Movick.

"The Treaty must be built on arrangements that as far as possible treat the US fleet consistently to other fleets. This is to their advantage because it allows them to compete more directly and commercially and also allows them to tailor the access they buy to their own operational needs, which is not the case in the current arrangement."

Samoa Tuna Processors welcomes move

Samoa Tuna Processors has welcomed the about turn on fishing access in the region after nearly two months of being locked out by failed treaty negotiations.

The chief executive of Tri Marine International's cannery in American Samoa, Don Binotto, said it was welcome news, not only for STP's fleet and business, but to the many families in American Samoa that depended on the tuna industry.

All U.S. flagged tuna boats had been tied up since the end of the year due to a disagreement with the tuna treaty that had surfaced in November last year.

Meanwhile Tri Marine's chief executive Renato Curto said the company was standing by its long-term position that the current treaty model was obsolete.

He said it could not withstand fluctuations in market conditions and what was needed was control on fishing capacity.

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