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PNA Countries Unhappy About Vessel Pay Scheme Pacific Island Nations, September 12, 13

The resounding success of a tuna pricing scheme has caused tension between some participating countries. The Vessel Pay Scheme has trebled the returns that some Pacific Island nations are receiving for their fish.

Some of the tensions arose during the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in the Marshall Islands last week.

The Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) was jointly adopted by eight Pacific Island nations who are PNA members. The regulation puts a limit on the amount of days that tuna vessels can fish for in the eight countries EEZ’s. It has resulted in a huge escalation of what fishing fleets pay for access to those waters and not all members are happy with the outcome.

Presenter of Australia Network’s Pacific Correspondent, Sean Dorney reported:

Peter O'Neill - Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea: Papua New Guinea has made huge sacrifices in this agreement. Huge sacrifices - meaning that although under the formula Papua New Guinea should benefit more than many of the other countries we've agreed to maintain the old formula which means PNG is sacrificing.

Dorney: Papua New Guinea has moved aggressively into setting up large tuna canneries which will be processing fish from other members of the PNA.

Transform Aqorau - Director, Parties to the Nauru Agreement: In all fairness they might feel that they have made some sacrifices. I've also heard from the smaller countries that they feel that our large member is doing all these, taking all these initiatives so that it also benefits.

Dorney: The President of Kiribati is annoyed about criticism that his Government has broken with the PNA by selling days to European fleets below the benchmark.
Anote Tong - President of Kiribati: And we're accused of underselling our vessel days! Is that not so?

Dorney: That's one of them. Tong: And you, I saw that article you wrote and I must say I was extremely disappointed because it was grossly incorrect.

Dorney: He listed the prices Kiribati negotiated.

Tong: One is USD 6,300 per vessel day - US dollars.

Dorney: However, the Director of the PNA says there's a sliding scale depending on the size of the vessel. Some fishing in Kiribati should pay USD 7,500 dollars a day because of how much they can catch.

Aqorau: Sixty tons at USD 2,000 a ton. They're making USD 120,000 a day.

Dorney: He says that working out the allocation of days between the countries is an imperfect process.

Aqorau: I wouldn't characterize it as entirely fair. I would characterise it as a just system.

Dorney: And it has dramatically boosted the returns the island countries get.