21 Mar 2011

Islands push US for Pacific tuna treaty revamp

1:38 pm on 21 March 2011

United States officials have been called on to reshape and rethink a 23-year-old fisheries treaty in the Pacific.

At the start of a renegotiation meeting in Majuro in the Marshalls, the local fisheries minister, Mattlan Zackhras, said the islands are demanding a greater share of the fishing pie, requiring the treaty to be updated.

The U.S. State Department negotiator, Williams Gibbons-Fly, acknowledged the possible need to reshape the treaty, but said the long-standing agreement had established a framework for cooperation to ensure a successful outcome.

The treaty, first approved in 1988, expires in 2013.

Critics say the treaty gives the U.S. tuna fleet access to lucrative Pacific fishing grounds for a fraction of the price Asian fishing companies are beginning to pay, and also allows the U.S. fleet to avoid tuna fishing cutbacks aimed at sustaining stocks.

The treaty provides 21 million US dollars annually to the islands to allow up to 40 American purse seiners to fish.