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Kiribati Generous To EU Tuna Fleet Kiribati, September 13, 12

Kiribati authorities are allowing the Spanish tuna fleet to continue fishing in their waters, while the new bilateral agreement between the developing country and the EU undergoes official legislation.

Without the pardon, the Spanish vessels would not be able to fish in the Pacific nation’s region because the current treaty expires on Sept. 16, 2012. Kiribati is made up of 33 widely dispersed islands and its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is the largest of the Pacific islands countries.

The Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union (EU) and Kiribati is the most important of those in Pacific fishery, said Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment in a press release. Currently, Spain is authorized to operate four purse seiners and three longliners in Kiribati’s EEZ.

The pact was renewed and finalized in June and permits a reference tonnage of 15,000 tons. With the world skipjack tuna price now at USD 2,250 per ton CFR Bangkok, the Spanish fleet could earn an estimated USD 33.8 million if they catch the maximum allowance.

In order to obtain this privilege the EU will pay only about USD 1.7 million to Kiribati for the fishing rights.

If converted to the EU fleet will be paying USD 3,600 on each fishing day. That number is based on the assumption that purse seiners catch an average of 32 tons each day, so it would take about 469 available fishing days to catch 15,000 tons.

The USD 3,600 a fishing day appears to be a bargain for the EU, considering for other vessels owners the current price of a fishing day is supposed to be a minimum of USD 5,000 as set by the PNA countries for their Vessel Day Scheme. Kiribati is a PNA member and the Vessel Day Scheme is supposed to reduce catches of tuna species, while increasing the rate of return from fishing activities of foreign vessels. It’s unclear what has motivated Kiribati to agree, at first glance, to a less lucrative deal with the EU.

Under the new agreement, about USD 450,000 of the USD 1.7 million will be allocated to help Kiribati promote responsible and sustainable fishing in its waters.

The previous treaty, which started in 2006, limited the annual catch to 6,400 tons. At that time when the skipjack price was still below USD 1,000 CFR Bangkok, the EU paid about USD 618,000 to Kiribati annually, of which 60% went towards promoting sustainability in its waters in each of the last four years. This means the Spanish fleet had about 200 fishing days in Kiribati’s waters and the EU was paying about USD 3,090 for each day. Now with the raw material prices being more than 125% higher the EU managed to negotiate a price of only 20% more.

The EU currently has 15 Fisheries Partnership Agreements with third countries, while Kiribati has fishing treaties with Japan, Taiwan, and the Republic of Korea, as well as private company agreements with vessels from Ecuador and El Salvador. As a PNA member country, Kiribati also benefits if a multilateral treaty will be signed with the U.S (currently under negotiation).

Kiribati depends heavily on fishing license fees from distant water fishing nations, which were worth about USD 31.4 million annually in the period 2009-2011, according to a recent European Commission report that evaluated the fishing partnership between Kiribati and the EU.