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Pacific nations look to increase control over tuna fisheries

by Staff Writers
Majuro (AFP) Marshall Islands (AFP) Nov 11, 2010
Pacific island nations were missing out on income from lucrative tuna fisheries and should consider tripling access fees for foreign vessels, the region's fishing chief says.

Transform Aqorau said Pacific islanders needed to take a united stand to ensure they received a fair share of their tuna catch, worth an estimated two billion US a year, which is dominated by US and Asian fishing companies.

"On our own, we cannot change the fisheries system in the Pacific, collectively, we can," said Aqorau, director of the eight-nation Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) grouping.

Speaking ahead of a PNA meeting in the Marshall Islands later this month, Aqorau said that access fees for foreign fishing vessels "should be double or triple what they are today".

"We are not yet benefiting from what is rightfully our resource," he said.

About 60 percent of the Pacific tuna catch comes from PNA waters and the organisation's commercial manager Maurice Brownjohn said foreign companies must involve the island nations more in the fisheries.

"PNA leaders have had enough of selling licences and being observers," Brownjohn said.

"We need more participation in jobs, manufacturing, and joint ventures."

The PNA meeting on November 25-26 will include representatives from tuna fishing and processing companies.

"PNA's goal is to look at how it can improve the value of the product, rather than just selling licences for boats to fish," Brownjohn said. "We want to grow the cake and take a bigger slice."

The Noumea-based Secretariat of the Pacific Community warned last month that Pacific fisheries faced collapse by 2035 if management of one of the region's main economic resources did not improve.

It called for greater cooperation between island nations to counter the threat from overfishing, population growth and climate change.

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