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Trying to resolve tuna treaty impasse

Friday 5 February 2016 | Published in Regional

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PAGO PAGO – A US State Department official insists it’s doing everything possible to achieve viable fishing access terms for American Samoa’s tuna industry.

There have been concerns from the territory about lack of direct participation in talks but the official, who did not want to be named, said the US invited American Samoa to join the US delegation in the negotiation sessions last year.

The official said the US was doing everything it can to preserve American Samoa’s tuna industry and that was why they were concerned about the potential long-term impacts of continuing within “unviable” models of fishing access, under the South Pacific Tuna Treaty.

The US recently served notice it was pulling out of the treaty, but the official said the US was making every effort to reach a mutually acceptable “understanding” with the Pacific Island Parties.

The US said earlier, the 2016 price of more than $US 11,000 a day, up from $US 5,000 a day in 2014, was unaffordable.

The official said the parties had not yet accepted its proposal to revise fishing access terms for 2016 nor offered an alternative compromise.

The official expected the way in which US vessels operated in the region may change over this transitional period, but fishing vessels would likely continue to supply and sustain American Samoa canneries.

Meanwhile, a former government minister in Kiribati says the region has to fully assess the impact of the US pulling out of the multi-million dollar deal it reached last year with the Forum Fisheries Agency.

Taberannang Timeon said the US deal was always below the world price and he hopes the US fishing industry will reconsider and return to negotiations.

He said the Kiribati approach has always been to deal with partners who respect its point of view.

The FFA has said smaller Pacific nations could suffer without the US payment. Timeon has recently thrown his hat in the ring for the Kiribati presidency. - RNZI