Vanuatu has signed amendments to the US Pacific Tuna Treaty, becoming the last country at this Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Nadi, Fiji this week to put pen to paper.
The new Treaty is significant because it heals a rift which had brought relations between Washington and the region to an historic low earlier this year after the US failed to pay for its contracted fishing days.
New financial arrangements under the treaty which are set to begin on January 1st 2017 are worth up to USD$70 million in aid and access fees if the US fleet utilizes all its fishing days.
Acting Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yvon Basil was appointed by the Government to come to Fiji and sign on behalf of Vanuatu.
The signing which took place on Thursday, was witnessed by the Director-General of the Forum Fisheries Agency, James Movick and a US Government representative.
Fiji is the only country still to initial the arrangement due to procedural matters still to be completed including approval by the Parliament.
The other countries including the US, Australia and New Zealand either signed or initialed the MOU of the Treaty last Friday at the Novotel Resort in Nadi.
There is substantial increase in financial returns for Vanuatu under the new treaty.
Under the Project Development Fund (PDF), Vanuatu was receiving Vt12 million every licensing period under the old treaty that lapsed in 2013.
Under the new treaty Vanuatu will receive Vt16 million.
As part of the equal sharing arrangement in the previous treaty Vanuatu was receiving Vt15 million every licensing period.
Under the new Treaty Vanuatu will be getting Vt65 million.
“The US Treaty is important. It is a symbol of unity and regional cooperation,” Acting DG Basil said.
“And for Vanuatu in terms of fisheries, whether it be fisheries or climate change or other issues, it represents a stronger collective voice from the region,” he added and thanked the US for their support in reaching this treaty.
Acting DG Basil explained that even though US vessels don’t regularly fish in Vanuatu’s waters the country still gets funding support each licensing period under the equal sharing arrangement.
Vanuatu benefits hugely from this funding because it goes to help fisheries development projects in the country.
Acting DG Basil also praised the high standards set by US fishing vessels.
“The fishing vessels of the US are very good and they are very transparent in how they conduct their fishing activities in the waters of the Pacific nations. They use the latest technology and their laws are very strict under which the boat operate. So, it’s a good partner to work with,” he said.