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Fishing agency preparing to renegotiate with US

Tuesday 9 February 2016 | Published in Regional

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NADI – Forum Fisheries Agency member states are meeting in Fiji this week to discuss solutions to America’s shock withdrawal from the Pacific Islands Fisheries Treaty.

Last month, the United States gave notice of its intention to pull out of the 30-year-old deal and failed to commence paying US$89 million to Pacific nations for the right to fish their waters this year.

The FFA’s Director General, James Movick, told Radio New Zealand’s Dateline Pacific the meetings in Nadi will initially address two possible solutions.

“The first will be to determine the availability of other countries that may also be wanting fishing days at this time, so that sales of those days can be made to others instead of to the US.

“That will relieve the burden on some of the island countries. Then we will look at whether any internal adjustments to the fee sharing formula amongst us might be necessary as another way to alleviate the burden that has fallen particularly on the purse-seine fishing countries.”

DATELINE PACIFIC: You won’t be considering renegotiating with the United States?

“We will be. This is the process leading up to the renegotiation with the United States. But first we have to determine amongst ourselves whether and how this is possible in a manner that is acceptable to all the Pacific island parties and then we will seek to sit down with the United States.”

DATELINE PACIFIC: They may have to reduce the day rate. Could that be a requirement of the United States and is that something you will consider?

“The US did say in their initial request to us to reduce the number of days, that while they were seeking a reduction in the number of days they weren’t seeking to reduce the rate per day.

“We haven’t discussed that as a group yet but that certainly might be one of the options that members might wish to look at.”

DATELINE PACIFIC: Will you consider negotiating with individual fishing companies from the United States?

“We are aware that there are individual US fishing companies that do want to talk to us, that do want to fish and are ready to pay for the days that they agreed to last year.

“It has to be done in the context of the treaty. The US boats themselves are unable to enter into an agreement outside of the treaty at this point in time. That will certainly be one of the issues we might have to look at over the next two days.”

DATELINE PACIFIC: Given the fluctuating price of tuna worldwide, do you have some sympathy for the US position?

“No, I don’t because they were aware last year of the situation. We asked them to consider very carefully whether they really required the number of days that they were seeking and that we finally gave to them at their request.

“So I have no sympathy. They should have known this and this is no way to enter into a major agreement of this sort.”

DATELINE PACIFIC: Are you aware of threats made by a Republican congressman to introduce a bill that would withdraw aid given to South Pacific nations?

“Yes, I am aware of it and every member of the US congress has the prerogative of introducing a bill that reflects his views and what he thinks his constituents may need.

“As far as we understand, it does not have the backing of the US executive or at least the State Department.”

DATELINE PACIFIC: But is it not a veiled threat to your organisation to find a solution?

“I wouldn’t want to characterise it that way. It reflects perhaps some degree of frustration on their side. Perhaps it is a threat, but I’d rather not deal with it in that sense.

“I’d like to see how the US government deals with it within the congress. Then we’ll get a perception of whether there is the weight of US government authority and policy behind this, or whether this is the prerogative of a single congressman to raise an issue.”

- Dateline Pacific