A key milestone in the historic Tuna Treaty between the Pacific Island States and the United States has been reached with a fishing access arrangement for 2024 signed off.

The MOU provides for the United States fleet operating under the Treaty to continue fishing in the EEZs of the Pacific Island Parties in 2024, pending the formal adoption of the agreed amendments and revised text of the Treaty for 2025 onwards.

‘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. The Tuna Treaty is a cornerstone in our relationship with the United States,’ said Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) director general Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, speaking at the launch of the Memorandum of Understanding.

‘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 finalise 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 Treaty package provides for a new funding of US$60 million per annum to be contributed by the United States Government for the next ten years (2023-2033) and a further amount paid by industry. This event is expected to be done in the second quarter of 2024.

In addition to this annual payment, the United States Government had agreed to provide US$10 million in 2023 for economic development funds which included funds for climate change related projects to be distributed equally to the Pacific Island Parties.

‘We thank the United States and look forward to our continued collaboration on sustainably managing, developing and protecting our tuna resources for future generations,’ said Dr Tupou-Roosen.

Ten of the 17 Parties of the Treaty signed the document in person and the remaining seven will have the opportunity to sign the MOU later.

The Treaty entered into force in June 1988. The Treaty provides for access by US flagged purse seine vessels to fish for tuna in the EEZs of the Pacific Islands Parties in exchange for access fees paid by the US  industry and fisheries development assistance provided by the US government.

While there is no sunset clause to the Treaty, the associated access and financial package is limited to specified durations, with current arrangements expiring in June 2023 and replaced with a new access and financial arrangement for the next ten years – taking it to June 2033.