Talks are underway in Brisbane, Australia between the United States and 17 Pacific Island Nations on a new South Pacific Tuna Treaty. The old treaty expired and an interim agreement is set to run out at the end of this year. As we hear from Neal Conan today’s Pacific News Minute, a deal is critical for American Samoa.
Tuna is the main export of the United States southernmost territory, and the Star-Kist cannery there relies on deliveries from the U.S. flagged distant waters fishing fleet. Their operations became more expensive after The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, closed US waters to purse seiners as of June 15th and the island nation of Kiribati closed its vast Exclusive Economic Zone as well. Brian Halloran, executive director of the American Tuna Boat association said that all 37 U.S. flagged vessels are now on the high seas in the waters of treaty Pacific Island nations. But, he noted, "Some of those areas are far away from American Samoa."
Under the current treaty, the U.S. Provides 90-million dollars per year in aid to 17 Pacific Island nations. 21-million of that comes from the federal government, but the Treaty with the U.S. Covers just a small fraction of a huge international industry.
In testimony before a United Nations Security council meeting on Small Island Developing States last week, Toke Talagi, the prime minister of Niue, said tuna worth 3.4-billion dollars was taken from the waters of Pacific Island Nations last year, with another 400-million dollars’ worth taken illegally. While often described as one of the poorest nations on earth, he said Niue just needs a fair share of the wealth from its fish and minerals beneath its sea-bed. "We are not poor, we are rich," he told the Security Council, “But you make us poor, some of you."