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PNA: US Tuna Treaty Price Only Fixed 2 Years – Not 10 Pacific Islands Nations, August 27, 12

As Pacific Island countries get closer to signing a new treaty deal with the US, the PNA said the agreement has been widely reported as more valuable than it actually is.
A statement from the US Embassy in Suva that the proposed deal was a dramatic increase in payments for fishing above what would normally be given by foreign fishing vessels was misleading PNA said.
PNA Director Dr. Transform Aqorau said: “While it was agreed in principle that the US would pay USD 63 million for 8000 days, this is to be reviewed every 2 years not 10 years as was reported. For the PNA, this amount falls way short of our expectations, and does not take into account market prices and changes that might occur in the future. The lesson that has been learnt about the previous US Treaty is that never again should the Pacific Islands lock themselves into 10 year financial agreements with the US that offer very few economic opportunities.”
However, Dr. Aqorau said the US vessels will operate under the PNA’s Vessel Day Scheme (where days fished are capped and controlled), an improvement from the current US Treaty where the US is entitled to have 40 boats fish as many days as they like. The US Industry will pay USD 42 million for 8000 fishing days - this is USD 5,250/day, which is 5% not 50% above bilateral minimum bench mark as reported.
Explaining why this deal was not as valuable as suggested, Dr. Aqorau said: “The Treaty is a multilateral arrangement whereby US vessels have access to multiple Exclusive Economic Zones, so one would expect a premium to be paid for this, compared with paying for access to just one country’s waters. Furthermore, after the Pacific Island Parties get their equal share and administrative costs are taken off the top of the package, the return to PNA may not exceed returns from other foreign fishing nations.”
Dr. Aqorau also said that US Embassy’s claim that the US will also pay a 17 percent return on the value of the fish caught is wrong, it is actually 11.7% including aid, and 7.7% for the access fee if one only took into account what the US fishing industry pays. This is less than the 10% average rate of return desired by Pacific Island Leaders.
Dr. Aqorau also cautioned against signing away economic opportunities to the US. He said the US said the treaty could be signed after “remaining technical issues” had been solved but this was incorrect: “The remaining issues are actually key oceanic state issues, such as whether the US will offer market access, investment and employment as other foreign fishing nations have, and whether they will respect national laws and PNA rules.”
The US will meet with the Pacific Islands to discuss terms of a new treaty in Port Vila, Vanuatu, September 5 - 8, 2012.