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Pacific News Minute: US Tuna Fleet Shut Out of Pacific Waters

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

American Tuna boats are idled in Pacific ports after failing to make an agreed payment to renew their licenses.  The Honolulu office of the National Marine Fisheries service informed them said they cannot fish in the Western Pacific as of January 1st.  The US companies want to renegotiate an agreement they reached with Pacific Island nations just five months ago.  More, from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

Back in August, the American Tuna Boat Association made a 68-million dollar deal for about 5700 fishing days for 2016.  But when the first quarter payment came due December 31st, several companies said they couldn't afford to pay that much, and asked to cut the deal by 2,000 days, roughly 1/3.

The agreement was negotiated with a group of countries called the PNA -The Parties to the Nauru Agreement which control waters with about half the world's skipjack tuna - the kind that you usually find in cans or bags at the grocery store.  While stocks of other Tuna are in trouble, skipjack is plentiful and prices are plunging. Transform Aqorau, the chief executive of PNA told Radio New Zealand that another problem is the American Tuna fleet itself. "They actually have older, inefficient boats," he said, "and their pattern of fishing is they land their fish in American Samoa."  Two canneries there process 300 metric tons of tuna per year; along with port services for 37 boats, they're the lifeblood of the economy of that territory.

The 17 Pacific Island nations who expected to receive their share of the US payments also face problems - that money was already in their budgets.  Some US companies offered to pay their part and get back out to sea, but PNA chief Transform Aqorau said that would mean effectively giving in to the demand to unilaterally renegotiate. "The Pacific Island parties rejected this," he said, "because, as they said, a deal is a deal."

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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