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House passes South Pacific Tuna Treaty




By Pacific Island Times News Staff


Washington D.C.-- Rep. Uifa’atali Amata Radewagen, American Samoa's delegate to the U.S. Congress, welcomed the U.S. House of Representatives' passage of a bill amending a treaty that seeks to stabilize high-seas fishing days and codify access to various island nations’ EEZ waters.


The South Pacific Tuna Treaty Act, H.R. 1792, sponsored by Rep. Ed Case of Hawaii and co-sponsored by Radewagen, amends the South Pacific Tuna Treaty Act of 1988 to reflect changes adopted in 2016.


Uifa’atali Amata Radewagen

In 2022, the Senate provided bipartisan support for advice and consent to ratification, and this bill would complete this longstanding effort, moving into statute what has been operating under a Memorandum of Understanding, and resolving restrictions.


"H.R. 1792 is bipartisan congressional direction of full implementation for the South Pacific Tuna Treaty, which has already been diplomatically negotiated among the U.S. and Pacific nations, and legislation is expected to be considered by the U.S. Senate, according to the Office of the American Samoa representative.


“This bill implements U.S. international diplomacy to help ensure that our tuna agreements improve operations and flexibility for our fleet – America’s last true distant water fishing fleet," Radewagen said.


Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, said H.R. 1792 would "enhance the effectiveness, clarity and enforceability of the South Pacific Tuna Treaty of 1988."


The bill, he added, addresses concerns and improves the regulatory framework governing fishing activities between the United States and the Pacific island partners.


Westerman said the bipartisan bill, which he described as "a commonsense bill, "would give more flexibility to the U.S. fishing industry and benefit all Americans.


Radewagen said the bill would implement into statute the most recent changes to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty negotiated between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and other signatory countries to the treaty.


"These changes are important to support the American fishing fleet in the South Pacific –where many boats call the port in American Samoa home.

These changes improve the operation conditions and flexibility for the fleet – which is America’s last true distant water fishing fleet," Radewagensaid on the House floor.


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The Natural Resources Committee passed the bill in October.


During the committee's hearing on the bill, William Gibbons-Fly, executive director of the American Tunaboat Association, noted that the last true “distant water fishing fleet” under the U.S. flag operating from Pago Pago Harbor, was a “multi-generational, family-owned businesses with a long and storied history as an important part of the U.S. fishing industry.”


Expert testimony noted that the U.S. tuna purse seine fleet has been reduced in a few years from 34 vessels to 13 vessels, due to numerous severe economic challenges from increased regulation, reduced access, and more competition, especially from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.


The 1987 treaty enables American tuna purse-seine vessels to fish in the exclusive economic zones of 16 Pacific Island nations and is key to the ongoing operations of America’s South Pacific tuna fleet including the 11 purse seiners based in American Samoa.


In 2016, the treaty signatories agreed to several amendments to the treaty. However, those changes have not yet been reflected in U.S. law, leaving South Pacific tuna fishermen in the state of uncertainty for years.



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