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Pacific Island Nations Seek New Tuna Fishing Treaty

GLOBAL - Pacific islands are trying to reach agreement with the US to update a treaty over tuna fishing to conserve stocks.

The United States and Pacific nations are heading for a showdown over the management of the four-billion dollar tuna industry with the island states saying their current treaty is outdated.

However, AFP reports that the United States says the 25-year-old agreement with the Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), which is to be reviewed next month, is considered valuable by "the vast majority" of Pacific states.

Criticism of the United States is being driven by the upsurge from 12 to 40 US-flagged fishing vessels in the region at a time when the Pacific is changing from the US-treaty formula of licensing boats.

It is being replaced by a "vessel day scheme" where licences are based on the number of days rather than number of boats as part of a move to reduce the tuna catch to 2004 levels.

Washington originally negotiated the fishing treaty with the FFA in 1987 to end a diplomatic crisis in the Pacific when the United States' purse seine fishing fleet was regarded as fishing illegally and flouting the rules.

The treaty gives the US access to the economic zones of the 16 FFA nations for a fee currently set at US21 million per year.

However, the FFA nations say that in the past year, tuna conservation and management measures have changed in the region.

AFP reports that there is increasing concern about overfishing of bigeye and yellowfin tuna, and also the island nations are demanding a bigger share of the $4-billion Pacific tuna industry.

They say they will be pushing for this to be taken into consideration at the US-Pacific fisheries treaty review in the Solomon Islands next month.

"The US treaty is outdated," said Glen Joseph, director of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority.

"It needs updating in light of the new Tuna Commission rules and current initiatives of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA)."

The PNA countries – which inclue Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu – control the waters where most of the annual haul of tuna is caught.

the Fish Site Editor

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