Pacific Islands Ready To Counter US Tuna Treaty Proposal

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Details of offer not revealed after FFA meeting in Fiji

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Feb. 10, 2016) – Pacific Island Parties (PIPs) have come up with a counter-proposal to be sent to the US government as soon as possible in the hope of resolving the current impasse over the South Pacific Tuna Treaty, which is administered by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) but they decline to reveal details of the proposal at this time.

The proposal was agreed upon Tuesday (Fiji time) during a three-day meeting held in Nadi, Fiji to discuss a resolution to the 2016 fishing arrangements under the Treaty, in which the US State Department last month gave notice of its intent to withdraw from the nearly 30-year old agreement that has allowed the US fleet to fish in waters of several Pacific island countries.

In a statement on the outcome of the meetings of the PIPs, FFA general director James Movick said all 17 member nations of the FFA have engaged in intensive discussions during the meetings.

Their focus has been to identify options that would achieve the dual goals of allowing PIPs to move forward with an arrangement with the US for 2016, while also mitigating the financial losses posed by a revision of the 2016 fishing arrangement to meet the US request for fewer fishing days, he said.

"These internal negotiations were difficult, as attempting to resolve third party conflicts often results in internal differences that must be overcome," Movick said. "I am pleased to advise that following these considerations, Pacific Island Parties were able to develop a counter-proposal that they strongly believe meets the two objectives. The Pacific proposal will be forwarded to the US as soon as possible."

However, the FFA general director said it would be inappropriate to share the details until the U.S. has had an opportunity to consider it, as this remains an active negotiation.

He noted that the Pacific parties to the Treaty have been very mindful of the urgency of this matter and do not think it is in any Party’s interests for the fleet to remain tied up, and they took this into consideration in preparing a proposal they believe should satisfy the US without the need for any further negotiation.

"Pacific Island Parties look forward to a speedy resolution so that licenses can be issued as soon as possible," Movick concluded.

The US fleet has been tied up since Jan. 1 this year after the FFA no longer issued fishing licenses under the treaty because the US defaulted in its payment, which was due on Dec. 31, 2015.

The US had sought to reduce the number of fishing days citing, among other things, the drop in tuna price. The big concern for American Samoa is the impact this impasse is having on the canneries, especially if no solution is reached on the Treaty that Tri Marine International — which operates a locally based fleet and a tuna cannery — believes should be restructured.

StarKist Co., the largest employer in the territory with some 2,000 workers, has urged the federal government to resolve the ongoing disputes and unfair restrictions on fishing grounds.

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