This was despite an initial US offer to triple its annual access fee from $21 million to $63 million.
Early this year, the US government and the industry agreed to the above increased access fee, which will come in the form of a $21 million US government aid package and $42 million industry payment.
The deal was premised on the US purse seine fleet getting 8,000 days for access to PNA waters and another 300 days from non-PNA members.
But PNA countries now argued that the value they would get from this agreement would be less than the benchmark price of US$5000 per day charged under their Vessel Day Scheme(VDS) to other fishing nations.
“The question for PNA countries is whether they will be willing to give the US the 8,000 fishing days for an amount less than US$5000 per day or get more if sold to other Asian fishing companies,” one industry source familiar with such arrangement told the Solomon Star.
Recently, Minister of Fisheries Alfred Ghiro signed a one year access agreement with Korea at a much higher rate than previously.
The agreement increased the amount of the country’s VDS above the PNA minimum rate of US$5,000.
Mr Ghiro had kept the actual figure a secret at this stage because they are yet to negotiate with other fishing nations.
PNA member countries argued they would not be willing to sell their fishing days at a rate below US$5000 per day.
A meeting by certain Forum Fisheries Agency members is currently on in Honiara to discuss reviewing this US Treaty agreement.
It was believed one of the agenda was to review the current status quo of an 85-15 percent agreed to by Pacific Island Forum in Cook Islands in August this year.
Under the existing US treaty, 85 percent of the funding — after various administrative and development fund deductions — goes to the islands on the basis of where tuna is caught, which means PNA members get most of the 85 percent.
But given the tripling of money from the US, PNA nations want to reduce the 15 percent, which is divided equally to all Forum Fisheries Agency member countries, regardless of where fish is caught.
PNA’s chief executive officer Dr Transform Aqorau earlier stated that the 15 per cent distribution had not been discussed yet.
However, he said it needs to be revised from 15 per cent to between five and nine per cent to maintain the value of the fishing days for PNA members.
It was reported that since PNA countries account for 8,000 fishing days and non-PNA members only 300, it is only fair to revise the 15 percent to between 5-9 percent.
That is to reflect the 8,000 number of days fishing in PNA waters of which PNA said it would be only reflective if the percentage be reduced from 15 to below 9 percent.
Otherwise PNA countries will earn only US$4000 per fishing day despite having the largest number of days compared to Non-PNA members of only 300 days.
Meanwhile, Dr Aqorau was quoted as saying in the Marshall Islands Journal last week, “The trade off for maintaining the 85-15 percent split was agreement to ask the US to increase its annual payment”.
But at a recent negotiating session in Vanuatu, US officials informally said they are not prepared to consider increasing the payment from the agreed level of $63 million.
Dr Aqorau said that when the $21 million government aid is taken out of the equation — since PNA nations do not accept Japan or other nations fisheries aid as fishing day access payments (the industry payment), after various deductions for payments to non- PNA members, will likely be around $4,000 per day, considerably below the minimum figure paid for single country access paid by Asian purse seiners.
It was reported that Island officials will likely have to agree to lower the share for non-PNA nations to make it worthwhile for PNA members to provide the days required under a new US treaty that is to go into effect in mid-2013.
By Daniel Namosuia
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