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Pacific News Minute: Report Puts Cost of Illegal Fishing in the Pacific Lower than Believed

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The cost of illegal fishing in the western pacific may be much lower than believed.  Previous estimates ranged up to $2.4-billion dollars a year.  But this week, an independent, European funded study puts that figure at about a billion dollars a year, most of that in tuna.  And, as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific News minute, the study also challenges beliefs, as to who's responsible.

"We imagine vast fleets of pirate boats," said James Movick, director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency. "The evidence doesn't support that."

The evidence was gathered over two years by an Australian company -MRAG Asia Pacific which concluded that the biggest culprits are licensed boats that underreport their catch.  It put losses to pirates at just 4% of the total.

Duncan Souter, the company's executive director, said Pacific Nations could "take comfort.  The scale of the loss is much less than previously thought." Even so, James Movick of the FFA called the new, one billion dollar estimate "staggering". It means that some of the poorest countries on earth lose more than $224-million dollars in royalty payments every year, the New Zealand website Stuff quoted the Natural Resources minister of Tuvalu, Elisala Pita, who said that tuna royalties represent 45% of his tiny country's budget. Until now, he added, Tuvalu "didn't know how much it was missing out on."

The report credits improved policing in the vast waters of FFA member states, but recommends stronger monitoring every step along the way from sea to store...this month, as it happens, the Honolulu based coast guard cutter Kukui is on patrol in the exclusive economic zone of American Samoa, boarding fishing boats to make sure they meet requirements, including proper licenses. 

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