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Canadians And USA Reach Tentative Deal On Albacore Fishing Canada & USA, April 19, 13

A tentative agreement has been reached with the United States Government on a renewed one-year fishing regime under the bilateral Pacific Albacore Tuna Treaty.

The previous fishing regime, which expired after the 2011 season, allowed for access for 110 Canadian vessels for a four-month season.

Canada has been engaged in difficult negotiations with the US since December 2011, in an attempt to restore access to US waters for the Canadian albacore fleet, who were shut out in 2012. American harvesters continue to be vocally opposed to any level of access for Canadian harvesters now or in the future.

Key outcomes include:

1) Number of boats: Number of vessels was by far the most contentious issue for both sides. Canada managed to secure access for 45 vessels, which represents a marked increase from zero vessels in 2012, and an approximate projected wholesale value of $10 million. The US opened negotiations with an offer of 20 boats. Canada started at 75-80. During the final hours of negotiations, US government indicated that their industry would not consider a number higher than 15. Levels of US access to Canadian waters remain at historical levels as they were in the previous regime (the average over the last several years is approximately 30 boats).

2) Length of season: Canadians will have access to US waters from June 15 - Sept 15. The length of the season for US vessels remains as it was in the previous regime - from June 15 to October 31, with continued port access until December 31 (for port activities only - not fishing). The US initially proposed a season of June 15 to August 31. The majority of Canadian catches in US waters have traditionally occurred in July/August. The fish normally migrate into Canadian waters in September.

3) Capacity of the Canadian fleet: The Canadian proposal tabled in Portland in May 2012 was accepted. This caps the capacity of the Canadian fleet but allows for vessel replacements as appropriate. Any replacement vessels would need to be of the same size or smaller than the vessel they are replacing.

4) Catch attribution: Agreed to make permanent the deal that was reached in 2008, that should the relevant international organization managing the albacore stock (IATTC) implement country quotas, catches of albacore will be attributed to the country in whose waters the fish were caught. This will be a stand-alone agreement. While this appears to be a significant concession, in practical terms, a move to implement country quotas would require Canada's agreement in the IATTC. No mechanism to vote exists, therefore Canada cannot be forced to accept any approach it is not comfortable with. The US Government readily acknowledges this fact.

Increased political opposition is expected on the US side. US Government officials indicated that their fishermen have ramped up their political engagement in the days leading up to negotiations.
The US Government was quite clear that a phase-out of the reciprocal fishing regime is to be expected, likely over a short time period (example given was 3 years). A continued agreement is not sustainable from the US Government perspective, given the continued resistance of their harvesters, and in the absence of any vocal support for the Treaty (States and processing interests were silent throughout negotiations).

Canadian harvesters on the Canadian delegations were frustrated with the positions presented by the US Government, and the tactics of their stakeholders. Canadian harvesters' seemed relieved that any tentative agreement was reached, their key priority was to maximize access to US waters. On levels of access, given the difficulty of negotiations, they are accepting of the number 45 and the shortened season.

It is expected that those Canadian Albacore fishermen with no access to fish in the US may complain about the agreement, therefor Canadian government officials will attend the BCTFA annual meeting on April 30 to debrief the fishermen association on the results of negotiations.

A Memorandum to Cabinet seeking approval to sign and ratify the amended agreement will be presented on May 8.