States want greater share of income
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) continue to set the pace in fisheries management in the western Pacific and the group’s latest decisions are upsetting tuna fishing countries long used to controlling the multi-billion dollar industry. PNA ministers’ decision in midJune to raise fishing day fees by 33 percent—from US$6,000 to US$8,000—produced immediate concern from the United States tuna fishing industry that has for nearly 30 years enjoyed preferential access to PNA waters, where over 50 percent of the world’s supply of skipjack tuna is caught. The decision, made during the annual meeting of PNA ministers in Majuro, is part of PNA’s ongoing strategy to produce a larger share of revenue for the island. During the past four years under PNA’s “vessel day scheme” (VDS), the eight members have increased their revenues from US$60 million a year to about $250 million. The new price increase, which goes into effect next January, could bump revenues to a new record of over US$350 million.
“We are surprised and disappointed that this is being raised as an issue for 2015, since we had understood that the interim agreement settled this matter for 2015,” said Brian Hallman, the executive director of the American Tunaboat Association. Last year, after several years of arduous negotiations, the U.S. government and industry leaders agreed to increase their annual payment from US$21 million to US$63 million a year. But the way this funding is shared among all Forum island nations, it works out to less than the existing minimum day fee of US$6,000.
While the financial package was agreed a year ago, the treaty is still not in final form, and a negotiating session is scheduled in July in New Zealand. PNA’s new financial requirements dim hopes that the treaty will be concluded at the upcoming talks. “While it is understandable that the PNA countries wish to maximize their licensing revenue, context and timing are important,” said Hallman. “For the past year, the price of tuna to the fishermen has been significantly lower than previously, and some vessels are experiencing real economic problems right now.”
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