Banaban Voice

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Pacific Island Nations Seek More Returns From Tuna

Dowjones Business News
Friday January 30th, 2009 / 6h42

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (AFP)--A group of Pacific island nations that control a large portion of the world's tuna fisheries are set to try to win a bigger share of the $3 billion regional industry, an official said.

Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority director Glen Joseph said the islands would meet later this year in New Zealand to work out how to make more money from tuna caught in their waters by other fishing countries.

Eight island nations, stretching from Kiribati and the Marshall Islands in the east to Papua New Guinea in the west, are no longer satisfied with getting less than 5% of the $3 billion annual tuna harvest in the region, most of which is taken from within their economic zones.

"Everyone knows we've been at the bottom of the barrel in terms of benefits," said Joseph, whose organization earned just $1 million from licensing vessels to catch tuna in Marshall Islands waters in 2007.

"The message to fishing nations is: Help us develop our resource and get the benefits," he said Thursday.
The eight countries form the Parties to the Nauru Agreement partnership, or PNA, aimed at forging a joint approach to issuing fishing licenses and sustainable tuna fishing.

The divide-and-conquer tactics allegedly used by companies and countries in negotiating license agreements have in the past led to little financial return for the island nations.

The two key issues are overfishing of yellowfin and bigeye tuna and obtaining more than licensing revenue from the fishing industry, Joseph said.

The PNA countries are taking a stronger stance after the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission moved to reduce catches of the two overfished species in December.

The commission, which groups Pacific island nations and the main fishing countries, agreed to a 30% cutback on bigeye tuna fishing over three years.

They also agreed to close two pockets of international waters between island nations' economic zones to fishing.

Joseph said most of the islands are poor, with high unemployment rates, and want help in developing domestic fishing fleets, onshore maintenance facilities and processing plants.

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