The U.S. House’s Natural Resources Committee has approved legislation that would finally bring America’s regulations into alignment with amendments to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty signed in 2016.
The 1987 treaty enables American tuna purse-seine vessels to fish in the exclusive economic zones of 16 Pacific Island nations and is key to the ongoing operations of America’s South Pacific tuna fleet. In 2016, the treaty signatories agreed to several amendments to the treaty. However, those changes have not been reflected in U.S. law, leaving South Pacific tuna fishermen in a state of uncertainty for years.
U.S. representative Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa) introduced the South Pacific Tuna Treaty Act this year to fix the discrepancy.
“This bill implements the changes that the signatory parties of the treaty agreed to back in 2016,” Radewagen told lawmakers on the Natural Resources Committee 26 October. “The governments that are party to the treaty, including the United States, have been applying many of the treaty amendments provisionally under a memorandum of understanding adopted concurrently with the amendments themselves. However, in the absence of U.S. amendments to implementing legislation, key provisions of the domestic regulatory regime continue to reflect aspects of the treaty prior to the 2016 amendments being adopted.”
“As a result, since 2017 the fleet has been operating in a kind of limbo,” Radewagen added.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Fisheries Kelly Kryc and American Tunaboat Association Executive Director William Gibbons-Fly testified in support of the bill at a July hearing.
“The 2016 amendments represent years of hard-fought negotiations to improve the operational conditions and flexibility for the fleet, some of which can only be realised after the necessary amendments to the implementing legislation are in place,” Gibbons-Fly said. The Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved Radewagen’s bill on 26 October, passing along its recommendation to the House. The legislation now needs to be approved by the full House. The U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to the legislation in 2022.