US Pacific tuna Treaty deal salvaged for 2016
The Forum Fisheries Agency says United States vessels are to resume tuna fishing in the region in a matter of days, thanks to what it says is extraordinary effort by Pacific Island countries.
The Fisheries Forum Agency says United States vessels are to resume tuna fishing in the region in a matter of days, thanks to what it says is extraordinary effort by Pacific Island countries.
In January, the US pulled out of a 30-year-old fisheries deal with the Pacific, after committing to pay FFA members US$89 million for the right to fish in the region in 2016.
The FFA says the Pacific has offered the US a revised package with fewer fishing days, reducing the required payment committment to US$66 million.
The FFA director general, James Movick, says it has taken a lot of effort and compromise for 17 Pacific governments to come together and agree to accept the US request revision.
JAMES MOVICK: Last year we had reached agreement in October at a level of fishing access of 6250 days. In late November, early December, the US came back saying they didn't feel they could use those days, couldn't afford them. So they asked for a reduction of 1950 days. And in early February the Pacific Island Parties (PIP) agreed they could actually offer the US a reduction of 1996 days - slightly more than they asked for. That and a number of other conditions which they had, and which the US essentially agreed to, with a few minor revisions, that minor revision was in turn reviewed by Pacific Island parties. So as of Monday, we finally have all Pacific Island parties agreeing. And both sides have signed the interim arrangement for 2016 which will allow fishing to proceed for this year.
MARY BAINES: That must be a bit of a relief in a way.
JM: It's a relief in that it has taken up a great deal of our time when we would have liked to have focussed on the negotiations, the development of an alternative Treaty access arrangement for a future treaty. So yes, it has been a distraction. And this is one of the points members had in seeking to resolve this now, so we can move onto what we consider to be the far more important discussion.of whether there is a good basis for a mutually acceptable, beneficial long-term arrangement.
MB: So are you happy with the agreement in terms of the Pacific making compromises - do you feel that it has been fair?
JM: I am satisfied that it meets members needs and capabilities at this time. What has satisfied me the most is not so much the outcome offered to the US in reduced number of days but the fact that Pacific island sense of commitment to maintain a strong regional position of unity, of seeking to understand each other's views. And of coming up with a solution that all could agree to at the end of the day. That strong commitment to regional solidarity, to working cooperatively with each other. I think that is the most encouraging thing to emerge from this process.
MB: So the importance is now in going forward is making more long-term agreements that fit everyone's needs.
JM: That is correct. To fit the changed circumstances that the region now has - particularly with the Vessel Day Scheme - how to incorporate that better into a multilateral fishing access arrangement without causing needless debate and compromises amongst our membership, we need to have something that allows US fishing boats access on terms that while offering a degree of multilateral access also enable them to be more flexible.
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