Tuna Treaty Tanks: The United States has informed the other parties to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty that it will be withdrawing from the treaty, first signed in 1987. Recent discussions over terms of its renewal were fraught; last August, when an agreement was finally reached for fishing in the South Pacific for 2016, the United States had agreed to pay $21 million to the 15 small island states whose tuna-rich waters are a major fishing ground for the 37 vessels in the U.S. purse-seine fleet. In addition, the vessel owners themselves were to make payments totaling $68 million in four quarterly installments of $17 million. The treaty has been the major source of U.S. foreign aid to the region.
But with depressed prices for skipjack tuna, many vessel owners in late 2015 announced they wanted to revise the price they would have to pay for a day of fishing in the member states’ territorial waters. From $9,380 per vessel day in 2015, the charge rose to $12,600 in 2016. As a result, the United States proposed that the number of fishing days, set in August at around 5,700, be reduced to around 3,700, which translates into a $23 million reduction in total payments under the treaty.
The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, which administers the treaty for the South Pacific island states, rejected the proposal.
On January 17, the State Department informed the FFA that it would be withdrawing from the treaty in 12 months. (The treaty requires parties to give a year’s notice of their intention to withdraw.)
In a letter sent out on Christmas Eve, Michael Tosatto, administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Pacific Islands Regional Office, informed purse seine owners that in the absence of a license from the FFA, they would not be able to fish in the treaty area beginning January 1 except within the U.S. exclusive economic zones around American Samoa and the Pacific Remote Island Areas that are not included in the PRI Marine National Monument. Also, he wrote, no fishing by U.S. purse seiners would be allowed in the area of overlap between the areas of competence of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, unless the purse seiner is on the IATTC registry of active vessels.
According to a report carried by Radio New Zealand, the FFA is now attempting to determine if it can sell the unused fishing days to other nations. “However,” its report said, “the FFA has conveyed that it thinks it may be difficult to get all vessel days purchased at the level – over $11,000 per day – that the U.S. fleet agreed to pay.”
Nahelehele Dry Forest Symposium will be held on February 26 at the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel in Kailua-Kona, with the theme: Dryland forest conservation – where we’ve been and where we are going.” This year marks the 10th anniversary of the symposium, which brings together landowners, managers, researchers, and other interested parties to discuss ways to protect Hawai`i’s imperiled dry forests.
Two field trips will be held in conjunction with the symposium: one on February 25 to the Ka`ohe Restoration Area on Mauna Kea, part of Palila Critical Habitat; the other, on February 27, will be to the private Palamanui Dry Forest Preserve, dominated by lama, alahe`e, and sandalwood. Participation is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis.
Early registration (through February 16) is $65 and includes lunch and parking. Student registration is $35. After that, it is $80 ($50 for students). Registration is limited to 200. To register: http://nahelehele16.eventbrite.com.
— Patricia Tummons