This is a routine annual meeting to administer the "Treaty on Fisheries between the Governments of Certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America" - otherwise known to regional fisheries people as the "US Multilateral Treaty" - which governs access by US tuna fishing vessels to Pacific Island waters.
Under the 22-year old treaty, the USA has essentially bought access to all FFA Pacific Island Member Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) so the vessels in the US tuna purse-seine fleet can range freely across the region, provided they abide by the provisions of the treaty and national laws. Other fleets from outside the islands region must buy EEZ fishing licences from each Pacific Island separately.
The USA thus has a special relationship with the Pacific Islands. The only other vessels which benefit from multilateral EEZ access licences are purse-seine vessels flagged and based in certain Pacific Island countries themselves, under the FSM Arrangement.
NFMRA CEO Deiye is currently the Chair of the "Parties to the Nauru Agreement" - usually known as the "PNA" - and since the PNA countries EEZs are the main attraction for the US purse-seine fleet, the PNA Chair plays an important role in this consultation.
When we asked Mr Deiye if he could talk about the meeting he said "This is a confidential negotiation. However it's no secret that the PNA is looking to change the way we do business with all the tuna vessels fishing in the region."
He explained that the PNA member countries (Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu) have already agreed to move away from limiting tuna fishing effort by capping the number of licences issued to purse-seiners to fish in PNA waters, and are now limiting fishing effort by setting a cap on the number of days fishing that is allowed in each EEZ.
The US Treaty is still organised according to vessel numbers, not fishing days.
"The Vessel Days Scheme", he said "gives us a much finer level of control over fishing than the licence cap. And nowadays, when some of the tuna species they are catching are reaching their limits of sustainable exploitation, we need to control the fishery much more carefully".
He added that the meeting also reviews any incidents that may have occurred during the course of the year involving US vessels in Pacific Island EEZs, and seeks to resolve them. "But to date it has been a very harmonious arrangement, and has led to many beneficial innovations that have since been applied to other arrangements, such as being the first country to include the regional "Minimum Terms and Conditions" for foreign fishing vessel access that are now built into all access agreements."
|NFMRA CEO Charleston Deiye|