More views on the US Treaty collapse / by Francisco Blaha

As anyone could imagine, in topics like this one, there would be different opinions. So here is PITIA's (the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association). 

They work as a "association of associations" for the pacific islands national fishing associations, however they are presently working on restructuring membership from its current model to a more open model where individual companies can be members. One of the key strategic focus for PITIA is to secure membership from the Pacific Islands Countries to give it a more holistic representation as a regional NGO.

Their message, as articulated in their last publication "Pacific Tuna Watch" is quite direct. I quote:

"Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association (PITIA) regrets the current impasse over the US-South Pacific Islands Tuna Treaty. We acknowledge the role of the USA in establishing the Skipjack Industry in the Pacific. The Skipjack Industry we have today owes its roots to the ubiquitous American tuna sandwich and subsequent developments in canning and purse seining tuna industry.

It is the US market that initially gave “the reason for being” that is the Tuna Industry as we now know it. The USA also offers far more liberal access to its markets to Pacific Island origin seafood than most others.

We have seen the exponential increase in the cost of “vessel days” under the PNA vessel day scheme and the current impasse is a direct reflection of this. Whilst acknowledging the need for PIC’s to maximise returns from its Fishery access, due consideration should also be given to the sustainability of those returns. Short term gains seem to have been realised at the expense of stability and reliability and the value of predictable revenues to the national budgets of the PIC’s.

It has come to a point when it is no longer economical to fish due to declining fish price and increasing cost of access. It is also obvious that vessels subsidised by their States will survive the longest despite poor compliance and lack of proper safety measures. The US fleet may well be the first of others to say “enough is enough”.

The domestic flag fleets of the Pacific cannot ever receive the level of Governmental fiscal support that foreign nations enjoy. If the US fleet find it uneconomical – what chance is there of developing a domestic fleet when the cost of access is uncertain and high?

It is not simply selling access to the highest bidder that matters but a more diversify and balance approached is warranted for fiscal stability and maximising domestic development and long term added value of the resource.

Those Island Nations that have signed up to the Long Line VDS should not anticipate any increase in revenue as the Industry simply cannot afford it. Unless a rational approach is taken in establishing access fees under a Longline VDS the “USA Impasse” may be the forerunner of others to follow.

The US Tuna Treaty impasse should be an eye opener for all stakeholders concerned. More particularly the policy making decision organisations that a more balance macro approach is important for the future of the Pacific Tuna Industry with due consideration for the sustainability and economics as major consideration for the common benefits for all the stakeholders concerned.

PITIA website is down (but they are working on it) otherwise I would have linked it.