Regional Powers Renegotiating U.S. Fishing In Pacific

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Revisited purse seiner agreement may be worth $63 million

By Bernadette Carreon

HAGÅTÑA, GUAM (Marianas Business Journal, Feb. 11, 2013) – Officials of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and Pacific Island Parties are currently in Auckland, New Zealand, negotiating to determine whether the United States purse seiners can continue fishing in the PNA waters and the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of other Forum Fisheries Agency member nations.

Nanette Malsol, PNA chairwoman and Palau's Director of the Bureau of Oceanic Fishery Management said in an earlier interview that the fishing agreement is now being renegotiated for extension as the previous agreement will expire in June.

The treaty between the U.S. and the Pacific Island Parties was signed in 1987 and has been extended, with the current expiration date on June 14.

She said the treaty allows up to 40 U.S.-flagged purse-seine vessels to fish in the EEZs of the 17 member parties.

The PNA comprises eight countries that cooperate to manage tuna - the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

The current value of the treaty is $21 million. With the renegotiation, the value is expected to increase to $63 million.

"Regional arrangements are also key principles in the renegotiation including the application of the Vessel Day Scheme [which has been agreed by U.S.] and other regional arrangements such as high seas pockets closure, observers program, fish aggregating devices closure, catch retention plan, and most importantly, to require broader cooperation in domestic development for pacific island parties and finally, to applying national laws," Malsol said.

She added that in the case of Palau, under the existing treaty, U.S. vessels rarely fish in Palau's EEZ due to its distance from transshipment ports and processing plants. In the event that a U.S. purse seine vessel enters and fishes in Palau's EEZ, then a formula is applied to the financial package which distributes the catch allocation to Palau.

The negotiations started Feb. 4 and were to end Feb. 9.

Officials said if no agreement is reached, the fishing rights of the U.S. purse seiners in the region will cease to exist after June 14.

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