US fleet back in action soon

A tender approaches the US-flagged purse seiner Raffaello in Majuro lagoon. All US purse seiners have been unable to fish in the central and western Pacific area since the US defaulted on a treaty January 1. Photo: Giff Johnson
A tender approaches the US-flagged purse seiner Raffaello in Majuro lagoon. All US purse seiners have been unable to fish in the central and western Pacific area since the US defaulted on a treaty January 1. Photo: Giff Johnson

Seventeen Pacific islands have agreed to reduce by nearly 2,000 fishing days the 2016 quota for the United States tuna fleet, a proposal that could see American purse seiners back in operation in the western and central Pacific in the near future.

In mid-January, the US State Department announced its intention to withdraw from a nearly 30-year-old treaty that has given the US fleet unfettered access to the most lucrative fishing grounds in the region. After agreeing in August to purchase 6,250 fishing days for $68 million — with the US government adding $21 million in fisheries aid to the package — by December some of the US fleet said they could not afford to meet the first quarterly payment of $17 million due January 1.

A meeting in Fiji in early February of officials from the 17 islands that make up the Forum Fisheries Agency agreed to “take back” nearly 2,000 days, cutting the US industry payment to $45 million. The proposal was pitched back to US State Department’s Director of Office of Marine, Conservation William Gibbons-Fly, who heads the U.S. side in the negotiations, on February 10.

“The Pacific Island Parties’ proposal accommodates the US request for reduction in fishing days,” said Marshall Islands fisheries Director Glen Joseph this week. “We are hopeful of a response later this week.”

Joseph said that if the US side agrees to the reduced days plan, “I hope to see US vessels moving out of port soon.”

Read more about this in the February 19, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.

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