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Tuna boats stuck in port

Tuesday 12 January 2016 | Published in Regional

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SAN DIEGO – The United States’ State Department has been forced to intervene after San Diego tuna boats were locked out of the Pacific for failing to honour a payment deal.

More than 30 mainly San Diego-based boats have been unable to fish, claiming they cannot afford to pay US$67 million as agreed with the Partners to the Nauru Agreement in September.

The PNA is made up of eight Pacific countries in the Central and Western Pacific area.

In early December the US fleet attempted to force the PNA to break the agreement during the annual Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission talks in Bali.

US operators are split on whether to pay current licence fees but Tri-Marine, one of the larger operators, has released a statement saying the payment system is broken.

The company operates in Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Fiji.

But PNA Chief Executive, Dr Transform Aqorau, has said companies must play by the rules.

“We don’t tell the US and Japan how to fish their waters,” he said. “You fish in our waters, you play by our rules and regulations.”

It appears the US will now be forced to subsidise licence payments for its boats to operate in the Pacific.

The PNA has a Vessel Day Scheme in which boat owners pay a daily rate for tuna fishing.

US operators and New Zealand want to pay by quota instead of the current method.

A State Department official told the San Diego Union-Tribune last week that it was communicating with the island nations in hopes of coming up with a resolution. The boats have been locked out since January 1.

- Islands Business