5 Feb 2016

US politician wants Pacific aid restricted over collapsed deal

1:58 pm on 5 February 2016

A US congressman in California has called for a ban on some American aid to those Pacific countries that are parties to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty.

This follows the end of the treaty arrangements when the US failed to pay its first quarter levy and the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency is no longer issuing licences to fish for tuna in the island countries' waters.

Now Republican Duncan Hunter wants the US Congress to stop the US Government using congressionally approved funds as aid to the Pacific countries involved - which includes all the independent island nations in the region.

Congress allocates about US$21 million dollars each annually to the US State Department as part of the federal government's financial aid under the Tuna Treaty.

Mr Hunter said it's important to stress economic assistance does not occur on its own; it had always been tied to United States boats fishing in the Treaty area.

He said the multi-year fishing agreements had been fairly stable under the Treaty for the first 25 years, with the last 10-year agreement expiring in 2013.

Since then, he said the US and Pacific Island nations have only been able to agree on annual agreements, the last few being detrimental to United States-flag vessels due to lower tuna prices and payment for unused fishing days causing economic hardship.