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By Rita N-Tudia, Pacificmedia@WCPFC13
Papua New Guinea hopes the spirit in which a multilateral tuna fisheries deal that it signed with the United States today will continue with the new US administration which comes into office in January, 2017.
PNG High Commissioner to Fiji Lucy Bogari said the South Pacific Tuna Treaty is an instrument that truly marks the relationship between the US and Pacific Island parties.
While commending the US for holding presidential elections, High Commissioner Bogari said PNG is very keen to see the relationship that the US and the Pacific have enjoyed over the years is a longstanding one.
“So under this new incoming administration we hope that this relationship will continue,” she said.
High Commissioner Bogari signed the South Pacific Tuna Treaty at the margins of the Tuna Commission annual meeting in Nadi today.
She added PNG asks that the rule of law and regulatory arrangements that are in place for the fisheries are followed by all parties.
“And we know that this in an informal MOU to set the process in place and as the (Treaty) depository we look forward to playing our role in making sure that instruments whatever needs to formalize the rescinding of the withdrawal takes place and we look forward to the continued relationship in that regard,” High Commissioner Bogari said.
Fourteen of the 16 Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency have signed the Treaty with the United States and Vanuatu and Fiji are expected to sign this week.
At an earlier signing ceremony held last Saturday, FFA Director General James Movick said the arrangement will allow the continuation of the Treaty for another six years.
“It has taken us seven years to reach this point and again this highlights the increasing complexity and the changing nature of this relationship even over the period of this negotiation,” Mr Movick said.
The Treaty which allowed US vessels to fish in the Pacific since 1988 as well as deliver economic assistance to the 16 FFA members from the US Government ran into hurdles in the last seven years.
These came to a head earlier in the year after the US failed to pay for fishing days it had agreed to and issued notice of its intention to formally pull out of the treaty.
US Secretary John Kerry has signed a letter to the FFA officially rescinding Washington’s notice of intention to withdraw.
In June this year, the FFA said the access and aid envelope for its members had been going through increasingly difficult negotiations and interim agreements since the last multi-year agreement ended in 2012.
FFA Deputy DG Wez Norris said the overall package could be worth as much as US70m for 2017 “if the fleet takes up all its available opportunities.”
“By the end of the deal the Treaty will be providing returns of over US14,000 per fishing day …At the start of the negotiation, that amount was somewhere in the vicinity of US2,000 per day, ” Norris said.
The US government aid received by Pacific Island Parties under the treaty will increase from US$18 million per year to US$21 million.
A Memorandum of Understanding, also signed last Saturday, provides a mechanism for the amendments to the Treaty to come into effect from January 1, 2017.