State Dept conducts technical & legal review of tuna deal

17301112The State Department is pleased the parties have agreed in principle on a revised South Pacific Tuna Treaty framework.

But as KHJ News Washington D.C. Correspondent Matt Kaye reports, the US is not ready just yet, to sign the deal…

A State Department official speaking on background, says the US believes the “proposed agreement” helps to establish more “flexible and sustainable” procedures to promote the US tuna purse seine fleet’s continued operation.

That after talks broke down earlier in the year over US non-payment for 2016, the Pacific’s refusal to issue licenses and a US formal notice of Treaty withdrawal.

The impasse was resolved, but the treaty’s survival was still in question.

The State Department official says the parties will still need to “conduct a technical and legal review” before concluding and signing a final agreement…adding, a final deal “is also subject to a formal decision from the US to rescind its notice of withdrawal from the Treaty.”

The most recent South Pacific Tuna Treaty renegotiation wrapped up last Saturday.

The proposed deal among negotiators from the US and 16 Pacific island parties would run through 2022, and set more flexible procedures for commercial cooperation.

The Treaty has been under renegotiation since 2009.

The U.S. delegation to the 18th Renegotiation Session included officials from the Department of State, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, American Samoa, and the U.S. fishing industry.

The multilateral Treaty allows US purse seiners that supply American Samoa’s two canneries, to fish in the exclusive economic zones of nearby island countries.

American Tunaboat Association President Brian Hallman calls the deal the “best outcome…under difficult circumstances.”

Individual vessels will be able to decide how many Treaty fishing days they wish to purchase…and US vessels are not required to buy any fishing days in a given year.

But the revised Treaty will provide fewer multilateral fishing days and the high seas will no longer be part of the Treaty area.

The Fisheries Forum Agency estimates the entire package could be worth as much as $70-million dollars in 2017, if the US fleet uses all available options. 

Daily returns by the end of the Treaty deal could be seven times what they were at the start of negotiations.

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