Tuna Treaty Negotiations

  • The United States and the Pacific island states are committed to ensuring the health of Pacific tuna stocks.
  • U.S. and Pacific island party negotiators agreed on an arrangement to extend the Tuna Treaty through 2015 at negotiations held October 2-4 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • Under the arrangement, the U.S. fleet will have access to 8,300 fishing days in the exclusive economic zones of various Pacific island parties for 2015.  The total financial package of $90 million is comprised of US$69 million from vessel license and access fees and $21 million of economic support funds provided by the U.S. government.
  • The United States remains committed to working with the Pacific Island parties to achieve a long-term outcome that meets the objective of both sides and that contributes to an effective and transparent conservation and management regime.  The United States wants to ensure that the Pacific Island parties receive fair compensation for the resources harvested in waters under their jurisdiction, can develop their domestic capacities and, at the same time, allow the U.S. fleet to continue to operate as a responsible and active participant in the fishery, consistent with past practice and the fleet’s long-term contributions to these mutual efforts.
  • In addition to our payments under the Treaty framework, the United States invests millions of dollars in domestic development throughout the Pacific.  The U.S. fishing industry and the United States Government are already involved in a large number of ongoing projects to support and enhance the development of domestic fisheries and fisheries’ capacity in a number of Pacific Islands.
  • These projects include investment in shore-side development, off-loading and transshipping through Pacific Island ports, training and capacity building, support for developing regional observer programs and crew training programs, cooperation on enforcement activities, among others.

Background: The 1987 Multilateral Treaty on Fisheries (“the Treaty”) forms the foundation of a strong and mutually beneficial strategic and economic relationship between the United States and the Pacific Island Parties (PIPs).  The Treaty ensures access to some of the most valuable tuna resources in the world with annual rights for up to 40 fishing licenses for the U.S. tuna purse seine fleet.  The average estimated value of U.S.-caught tuna landed in the region in recent years exceeds $580 million, with a total annual contribution to the U.S. economy estimated to exceed $870 million.  The U.S. economic activity supported by the Treaty is centered in American Samoa, where the tuna processing sector and associated support facilities account for up to 85 percent of the private sector economy.  NZ is a Party to the Treaty and has been an advocate for concluding the arrangement, although U.S. vessels do not regularly fish in NZ waters under the Treaty.

In return for access, the United States fishing industry in recent years has provided $42 million annually to the Pacific Island Parties for license fees.  Under a separate Economic Assistance Agreement (EAA) associated with the Treaty, the United States Government has committed to provide an additional $21 million in U.S. Economic Support Funds (ESF) annually for ten years to promote economic development of the Pacific Island Parties.  These ESF payments are the largest single source of U.S. economic support to the region outside of the general USG funding provided through the Compacts of Free Association.  Fisheries’ resources are vital to the economies, cultures and future of the small island developing states of the Pacific, and the ESF associated with the Treaty advances U.S. priorities by promoting the rational management and sustainable harvest of these resources.

The current interim arrangement to extend the Treaty expires on December 31, 2014, and negotiations have been continuing to renew it, and to amend and extend the Treaty as a whole.  A negotiating session in July 2014 was thought to have resolved most of the outstanding substantive issues, but failed to reach agreement on a financial arrangement to continue to the Treaty beyond December 31.

At a quickly organized meeting in Honolulu, HI, October 2-4, the U.S. and PIP negotiators reached agreement on a new Interim Arrangement allowing operational continuity of the Tuna Treaty through 2015.  The arrangement will allow the U.S. fleet access to 8,300 fishing days for 2015.  The total financial package of $90 million, representing an increase of $27 million per year, is comprised of US$69 million from vessel license and access fees and $21 million of economic support funds provided by the U.S. government.