US Tuna Boats Seek Level Playing Field

Going into next week’s meeting of the organization called the Western and Central Pacific fisheries Commission, aka Tuna Commission, the body which regulates the fishing of tuna in the Pacific Ocean, US tuna boats are hoping for better outcomes than what has been achieved in the best.

The meeting takes place December 5-9 in Nadi, Fiji and American Samoa is sending several representatives.

While much focus has been on the canneries and helping them stay competitive and keep them here, the tuna boats that deliver the fish which are processed and canned at the Starkist and Samoa Tuna Processors plants, have not received much attention.

Regulations initiated by the Tuna Commission and the United States in recent years have hit the US tuna boats hard and subsequently affected the supply of fish for the local canneries.

The gripe of US purse seine owners is that while they are subject to very stringent measures, other fishing countries that ply the Pacific waters have a free for all.  And they are getting away with it.

The Executive Director of the American Tunaboat Association Brian Hallman says their group wants only a few things from the WCPFC or Tuna Commission.

First, is for management measures to be based on scientific recommendations, not on politics or economics.

Second, they want a level playing field in the sense that management measures should apply to all fleets, and all fleets must comply in a verifiable way.

The US tuna boats also want fewer restriction on fishing by US vessels on the high seas.

Hallman says they are working with the US Government to do what they can to ensure that US fishing interests are taken into account in all discussions at the Fiji meeting.

Asked if he feels that the US is giving enough attention to the plight of the US tunaboats fishing in the Pacific, Hallman said outright, *No, not really.”

He told KHJ News, the US Government will listen to us, but it seems that many times the negotiating and regulatory decisions made do not help the fleet — often quite the contrary, they are harmful to the fleet.”

Admittedly, it is a tough international negotiating environment, but we wish the US would do more to stick up for the US flag purse seine fishing fleet. *

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