The United States of America (USA) and the Pacific nations have re-signed the US-Pacific Tuna Treaty healing the rift caused earlier this year when the US refused to pay up for its tuna fishing days.
A historic signing ceremony was done last Saturday at Novotel Hotel – putting an end to a deal that some thought might never happen at all.
Head of delegation for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) Ferral Lasi said, this is a win-win situation and the Solomon Islands will be actually benefiting tremendously from the revised treaty.
It took another for years for the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) member countries to negotiate, after the old treaty had lapsed few years ago.
“The new treaty mostly does a number of amendments.
“It is not a totally new treaty, but there is a lot of work that has been done to revive it.
“For us Solomon Islands as a member to the FFA, this has been a great improvement,” Mr Lasi said.
He briefly stated that, the old treaty was worth USD$21 million and the revised treaty is increasing up to USD$98 million dollars of the total package.
“This is a lot of improvement to that, member countries will benefit more from the treaty which was just signed.
“Its importance is that, the country will benefit a lot in terms of the local economy,” Mr Lasi added.
He said one of the things that are at risk in the last treaty was that, some other countries will be under threat when the treaty was stopped; some other Pacific countries will seem to lose more.
Now that the new treaty is signed, we now have the other countries coming in to be part of the group – so it is a good thing, Mr Lasi said.
“So it is a good thing that the treaty has finally combined and straightened us politically as a group to pursue our interests in the tuna commission.
“In general, it makes all of us happy and it is a win-win situation,” Mr Lasi stated.
Meanwhile, in his remarks at the signing, the Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) James Movick described the occasion as a “Phenomenal effort” in reaching the new agreement.
“For many of us who have been involved in the process there were many times when we honestly didn’t feel that we would be able to reach agreement on fundamental points let alone reaching a final outcome as we have here today.
“Nevertheless as the Ambassador has said it is a testimony to the long history of this treaty and of the friendship and relationship between the United States and Pacific Island countries that there has been commitment and sustained effort and direction from the very top levels for fisheries officials to try your very best to reach agreement with the United States on a continuation of the treaty and I was very pleased at the Forum meeting in Pohnpei earlier this year,” DG Movick stated.
He said,to be able to report back to the leaders that the officials of the Pacific and its partners in the United States have been able to reach an agreement and one that isn’t reached under duress or anything but one which truly has a number of creative elements to it.
“… and recognizes the continuation of a long history and commitment to this treaty process while recognizing the changes that are occurring in the region, the increased complexity, challenges and opportunities that are facing the Pacific Islands parties in particular and to which our colleagues in the US fleet and the US government are also having to adapt as we go forward,” he added.
In an interview with regional journalists after the signing, US Ambassador to Fiji Judith Cefkin said, reaffirming the commitment and co-operation with the Pacific Island States makes her very happy for the future.
“It is also the foundation for a great model for sustainable management of fisheries and we know how important that is to the Pacific as well as to the United States so I am really happy about that.
“I think this new arrangement has a lot more flexibility built into it and it does have the buy-in of our fisheries as well as our government and I think that given the terms that were agreed and the way it was negotiated that I am confident going forward.
“But of course our fisheries are responding to their commercial realities, their economic realities so I think this puts it on a much stronger footing,” Ms Cefkin said.
It was understood that the MOU signed over the weekend allows the new arrangement to come into effect from January 1, while the signed amendments go through the ratification process in each country.
For the Solomon Islands, Mr Lasi clarified that what he did during the signing over the weekend was just an initial part of the signing of the US Treaty.
The Cabinet will have to meet again later to do a final signatory to have all the formalities made.
By RONALD TOITO’ONA