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Pacific Island Countries Reach $90 Million Tuna Deal With U.S.

Pacific Island Countries Reach $90 Million Tuna Deal With U.S.

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Pacific Island countries and the United States have reached a $90 million tuna deal, which is believed to be the world’s most lucrative fishing access agreement, reported by Radio Australia.

More than 60 per cent of the world's tuna is caught in the Pacific. (Photo: CTI-CFF/WWF/Tory Read)

More than 60 per cent of the world’s tuna is caught in the Pacific.
(Photo: CTI-CFF/WWF/Tory Read)

The deal was secured in the final minutes of a three-day negotiating session in Hawaii.

Under the agreement, the 17 member countries of the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries will receive $US90 million from the US government and its tuna industry in return for 8,300 fishing days in 2015.

“We have been renegotiating this treaty since 2009, when its total value was in the order of $21 million,” said James Movick, director general of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

“During that time, the Pacific Island parties were able to secure an increase to $42 million in 2011, and then again to $63 million in 2012.”

As tuna stocks in the rest of the world dwindle, the Pacific has become the global epicenter for the industry. More than 60 per cent of the world’s tuna is caught in the Pacific by vessels from powerful distant water fishing nations such as China, Japan, Taiwan South Korea, Spain, and more from North and South America.

For many Pacific Island nations, tuna license fees are a budget mainstay.

Mr. Movick puts the region’s negotiating success down to collective bargaining and to the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), introduced by the eight Pacific nations that are parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).

The VDS sets a region-wide quota for fishing days and a minimum price per day. It aims to reduce the number of days on offer and ratchet up the price.

Since it began in 2005, it has been successful in improving economic returns for Pacific Island nations but not in halting the decline in fish stocks.

Scientists say stocks of Bigeye tuna are now down to 16 per cent of their original numbers and are calling for tougher conservation measures.

Pacific countries are due to meet with the distant water fishing nations in December to agree on a long-awaited new conservation measure.

In the past 12 months, Japan has indicated a new willingness to support stronger conservation action but other nations remain unconvinced.

Mr. Movick says the new deal with the US sends a strong signal.

“It will point out to the other distant water fishing nations the seriousness with which the Pacific countries take both conservation and the economic maximization of their tuna resource,” he said.

“The Treaty has been in place as a multilateral access agreement for just over 25 years now.  All Parties recognize that the fishery is so different today compared to when it was first negotiated, that some fundamental changes are required to ensure that it really is to the mutual benefit of all Parties, and to the US vessels,” Mr. Movick added.

US deal post-2015 may be very different

Despite its success this may be the last such deal with the US.

“In my view we will have to seriously reconsider the structure of the US treaty,” Mr. Movick said.

All Pacific Island members of the Forum Fisheries Agency, including those with no tuna, benefit from the current arrangements with the US. That does not sit well with some of the tuna-rich nations, which have to forgo income to help their neighbors. Talks to decide on allocating revenue from the US deal are difficult and time-consuming.

Australia is a member of the Forum Fisheries Agency along with Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The parties to the Nauru Agreement include Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

Read original story from Radio Australia.

 

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