The deal, struck in the dying minutes of a three-day negotiation session, provides for US flagged purse seine vessels to fish 8,300 days in the region in 2015 in return for a payment of USD 90 million made up by industry and US-Government contributions.
FFA Director-General, James Movick, heralded the deal, expected to be the most valuable fisheries access agreement ever reached in the world, as an outstanding success. “We have been renegotiating this Treaty since 2009, when its total value was in the order of $21 million,” he said. “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. The package that has now been agreed substantially builds on that, and reflects very well the outstanding progress made by the Parties to Nauru Agreement (PNA) in building the value of their purse seine fisheries”.
The negotiation has been a challenging one by any standards according to FFA Deputy Director-General Wez Norris, who lead the technical team assisting the FFA members in the negotiations. “Any collective Treaty negotiation is hard, each participant is a Sovereign Government charged with securing outcomes that are in the best interests of the countries and the people they represent,” he said.
“Over the course of the negotiations, we have faced and overcome many significant challenges – challenges that have threatened to render regional solidarity. However, reaching an agreement of this magnitude demonstrates clearly that this is a worthwhile investment by the Pacific, and if anything, heralds even stronger ties for the future”.
The two FFA executives agree that by any standard, the deal negotiated by the Pacific Parties is a good one. “At $90 million, the 2015 deal provides sufficient rewards to all Parties in respect of the access to their fisheries resources that is being provided” Norris notes.
DG Movick described the outcome of these negotiations as a superb example of regional cooperation and team effort and testimony to the increased expertise and capabilities of regional officials.
The Director General especially recognised “the high degree of commitment and cooperation of the national participants in the negotiating process, supported by the very hard work and excellence of advice provided by Deputy Director Norris and the technical team from FFA secretariat, and the PNA Office.
He says Pacific Leaders and fisheries Ministers have all “played a key oversight role in the negotiations so far and our view is that the negotiation team has more than done justice to their directions in securing this arrangement for 2015.”
“It would be remiss not to acknowledge the role of the US in being able to reach this agreement,” says Movick. “Both the Government and Industry have been active in the negotiation and we all hope to bed down a longer term arrangement in the future”.
“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” Movick said.
“Rights based management and collective action, as best manifested in the PNA vessel day scheme (VDS), has been highly successful in allowing the Pacific to secure high returns from the fishery. Our challenge is to find ways for arrangements like the US Treaty to enhance, and not undermine the achievements of the VDS