Majuro: The one-year transitional arrangement for United States vessels for 2016 is a “positive development reflecting the value of rights-based fisheries management” for the Pacific islands, said the CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) today.
Dr. Transform Aqorau said the one-year deal agreed to on 5 August 2015 at the end of a negotiating session in Australia brings greater benefits to all Pacific islands and confirms the value of the PNA’s vessel day scheme (VDS) for managing the skipjack tuna fishery in the western and central Pacific ocean.
The deal, however, is only for one year, which underscores the increasing difficulties in getting agreement on longer-term access for U.S. vessels that they enjoyed until the PNA introduced the VDS.
The islands will receive higher fees for fewer fishing days than in the current agreement for 2015. The total package, including both U.S. industry payments and the U.S. government fisheries subsidy comes to US$89,271,350 for 2016.
The eight PNA members will receive US$12,600 per fishing day, a 34 percent increase over the US$9,380 currently being paid by the U.S. purse seine fleet.
PNA set US$8,000 as the minimum fee for VDS days for 2015 and 2016 while capping the number of fishing days for 2015 and 2016 at fewer than 45,000. Many fishing nations in 2015 are paying significantly more than this benchmark price to secure fishing days for their fleets.
In addition, the agreement for 2016 will, for the first time, see the Cook Islands receive significant payments under the VDS, and the U.S. fleet will begin “exploratory” fishing opportunities in the exclusive economic zones of five South Pacific nations.
The U.S. tuna industry will pay US$68,271,350 and the U.S. government will provide a subsidy of US$21 million. Fishing day payments aside, each of the Pacific islands involved in the treaty will receive an equal share payment of US$680,397.
“This is a deal that is good for Pacific Island peoples and reflects the value of access to the world’s last remaining healthy tuna resources,” said Dr.Aqorau. “It is an excellent deal for PNA and non-PNA nations alike, it shows how the VDS has worked, and how Pacific Islands have transformed the fishery.”
The U.S. also agreed not to fish in two high seas “pockets” located in the PNA region.
PNA has enforced the VDS for the purse seine industry for over five years, setting a minimum fishing day fee now at US$8,000. Since 2010, revenue from the VDS to the eight-member PNA has increased more than five-fold, from US$64 million in 2010 to an estimated US$350 million this year.
Since the access and financial terms of the Treaty lapsed in June 2013, the U.S. and the Pacific Islands have agreed on a series of one-year or 18-month interim arrangements to maintain the treaty, which gives U.S.-flagged vessels access to the region for fishing while negotiating extension of the Treaty.
Although there continue to be challenges — issues such as the U.S. desire for more fishing days in the waters of particular countries and a request for exemption of a few large purse seiners from the requirement that a fishing day be defined as 1.5 days for vessels with significantly increased capacity and sophistication — Dr.Aqorau said these “are just issues to be worked on in the future.”
“The result of the Australia negotiation session is another positive gain for the Pacific Islands in our work to both increase benefits to our members and conserve the tuna resource for future generations,” said Dr.Aqorau.