Tri Marine International, which operates the Samoa Tuna Processors cannery in Atuu, says it has been anticipating a change in how the US purse seiners would manage access to the tuna fishing grounds in the Western and Central Pacific for several years.
Chief Operating Officer of Tri Marine, Joe Hamby, says now that the future of the US South Pacific Tuna Treaty has been resolved, “we will be able to focus on building a coalition of fishing companies and resource owners committed to supporting American Samoa as a regional tuna processing hub.”
On June 15, the Pacific Island parties and the US agreed to renew the South Pacific Tuna Treaty following earlier notice from the US government that it would withdraw from the Treaty.
Tri Marine International says what this means is that US flag purse seiners operating in the Western and Central Pacific will have the opportunity to purchase fishing days in the Exclusive Economic Zones of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) as well as the other Pacific Island countries that are parties to the Treaty.
A statement from the company concerning the outcome of negotiations between the US and the Pacific Island parties in Auckland, New Zealand says that both sides agreed that the SP Tuna Treaty was outdated and did not meet the needs of either the Pacific Island resource owners or the fishing boat owners.
The US fleet of up to 40 purse seiners, including those based in American Samoa, will have the option of buying multilateral days, participating in auctions for pooled days or entering into agreements to purchase bilateral days.
The American Samoa-based boats that deliver their catches to the canneries in American Samoa will be looking for fishing agreements that allow them to fish in the waters that are closest to their homeport of Pago Pago.
Tri Marine says Tokelau, Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the high seas areas are therefore most important to them.
Formal approval of the Treaty, which becomes effective in 2017, is needed from the US Government and Pacific Fisheries Ministers.