US, Pacific Island States reach agreement on 2024 tuna access

A photo of Pacific Island States representatives
Pacific Island States representatives sign a new memorandum of understanding with the United States | Photo courtesy of the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
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The United States and the Pacific Island States have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for 2024 fishing access, as U.S. lawmakers work toward formal adoption of amendments to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty.

Under the MOU, the U.S. fleet will be allowed to continue fishing in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the Pacific Island States.

“The Tuna Treaty is a cornerstone in our relationship with the United States,” Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General Manu Tupou-Roosen said in a statement. “The signing of the MOU is significant because it underlines the great importance that our Pacific Island Parties and the United States place on the continued partnership. It also creates the space for the parties to finalize the work on a revised treaty for 2025 and beyond. Further, it paves the way for enhanced collaboration between the parties in key areas such as combating illegal fishing and tackling climate change.”

The revised agreement includes new funding from the U.S. for economic assistance.

“We have announced our intention to request from Congress USD 600 million (EUR 554 million) over 10 years, beginning with the FY 2024 request, in support of a new economic assistance agreement related to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty, which is crucial to the region’s economy and has been a cornerstone of our relationship in the region for over three decades,” U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary Daniel Kritenbrink told lawmakers in testimony last month.

According to the FFA, the U.S. will also provide USD 10 million (EUR 9.2 million) in economic development funds.

“The increased support being provided to Pacific Island Parties through the Treaty is timely and much needed with the ongoing economic challenges and dealing with the environmental impacts of climate change that are all too real in the Pacific region,” Tupou-Roosen said.

The South Pacific Tuna Treaty was first signed in 1987 but has been updated intermittently since then. The signatories agreed to several amendments to the treaty in 2016, but those changes were never formally incorporated into U.S. law. While the U.S.'s South Pacific tuna fleet has been able to continue operating in the region under MOUs, U.S. lawmakers are considering legislation that would formally adopt the treaty amendments under U.S. law. The bill was approved in committee but has yet to receive a vote by the full U.S. House of Representatives.

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