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US Heals Rift With The Pacific

Nadi,Fiji- Pacific island nations and the United States have signed amendments to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty healing a rift which had brought relations to an historic low earlier this year after the US failed to pay for its contracted fishing days.

“This is truly a great day,” US Ambassador to Fiji Judith Cefkin told delegation leaders from the 12 Pacific Islands Forum nations who signed the documents in Nadi, Fiji.Ms Cefkin said Washington sees the Treaty as a cornerstone of its relations with the region.James Movick, Pacific Islands Forum Agency Director General said the amendments will allow the continuation of the 28-year-old treaty for another six years.

Palau representative to the WCPFC meeting Kathy Sisior (right) signs the US Treaty, Saturday.

He described the successful outcome of negotiations after three years of tension as “a phenomenal effort.”“For many of us who have been involved in the process there were many times when we honestly didn’t feel that we would be able to reach agreement on fundamental points let alone reaching a final outcome as we have here today,” Movick said prior to the signing of the amendments.A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), also signed yesterday, provides a mechanism for the amendments to the Treaty to come into effect from January 1, 2017.

The overall financial package for the Pacific Island Parties associated with the agreements could be worth as much as US$70m in 2017 if the US fleet takes up all its available fishing opportunities. The associated aid component paid by the US government will increase from US$18 million per year to $US 21 million. By 2023 the Treaty will be providing returns of over US$14,000 per fishing day, up from around US$2,000 per day when the negotiations began in 2009.

Pacific Island nations celebrate the historic signing of the US Treaty on fisheries.

Ambassador Cefkin said the amendments to the treaty establish more flexible arrangements for fishing access, striking a balance between increasing economic returns for Pacific Island parties, while establishing greater certainty to support the continued viable operation of the US purse seine fleet. The treaty is “also the foundation for a great model for sustainable management of fisheries and we know how important that is to the Pacific as well as to the United States,’ she said.

Papua New Guinea Director of Regional Economic Affairs Branchm Multilateral Co-operation Division, Department of Foreign Affairs, Jonathan Kidu said the signing brings great benefits to the Pacific nations.

“We are pretty happy to have this concluded today. We note the new model has adopted new strategies in terms of benefits, greater benefits for Pacific Islanders,” he said. Representatives from Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and the United States signed the amendments and MOU, Saturday.

At least three more Pacific Nations are expected to add their signatures in the coming week as delegations arrive for the annual talks between the global fishing powers and the Pacific at the 13th session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

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