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Pacific seals historial tuna fishing access deal

Kiribati accused of jeopardising US treaty

The ink had hardly dried when controvesy erupted on the historic tuna fishing agreement sealed in Hawaii last month by 17 Pacific Island nations and the United States. Just days after hailing the US$90 million deal in return for 8300 days of fishing in the Pacific in 2015 for US tuna association as an ‘historic agreement,’ the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency had to go on the defensive one week later in support of one of its members, Kiribati.

Media reports accused the island republic of reducing fishing days of US tuna boats in favour of European and Asian-owned boats. “Contrary to news headlines in recent days reporting widespread ‘shock’ at the news and ‘shattered regionalism’ for Pacific Fisheries, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency Deputy Director-General Wez Norris says Kiribati made its revised position clear in plenary sessions during the negotiations in Honolulu earlier this month,” the FFA said in a statement released on October 14. “Kiribati advised the negotiating session that due to changing circumstances it was no longer able to contribute the number of days it had in the past to the Treaty,” says Norris, adding, “the allocation of days is the sovereign prerogative of each Pacific Island Country and one that all governments undertake with much care and consideration for their national circumstances.”.

“The Pacific Island parties accepted that sovereign decision and used the time available in the negotiation session to identify alternative ways to provide a valuable and attractive offer to the US,” he says. “The ability to work together to deliver this package reflects the strength of regional collaboration and solidarity that has been the basis of Pacific fisheries management and development over the last 35 plus years and bodes well for the future”.

“Undoubtedly, the revised package will require a change in operations for at least part of the US industry and they made it clear at the session that this would come at cost to them; but at the end of the day, the deal was agreed to by all parties and will be the basis of cooperation in 2015.”

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