The 1987 Multilateral Fisheries Treaty with the States in the Forum Fisheries Agency is a vital component of the political and economic relationship between the United States and the Pacific Island Parties. The Treaty entered into force in 1987 for an initial period of 5 years. It has since been extended twice; the most recent extension is for 2003 through 2013. The Treaty sets the operational terms and conditions for the U.S. tuna purse seine fleet to fish in a vast area of the Central and Western Pacific Ocean, including waters under the jurisdiction of the Pacific Island Parties.
Under an Economic Assistance Agreement related to the Treaty, the U.S. Government provides economic assistance to the Pacific Island Parties. The Agreement is the only source of U.S.
economic assistance to the Pacific Island States with the exception of the assistance given the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau under the Compacts of Free Association with the United States. The economic assistance provided through the Agreement serves to support public education and health care programs, responsible utilization of natural resources, and general economic and social welfare in the Pacific Islands. The Agreement is a prime example of targeted foreign assistance that assists developing countries while also providing a tangible benefit to U.S. interests, both foreign and domestic.
The Treaty has provided other political benefits as well. It essentially eliminated the tensions that existed previously between the United States and Pacific Island Parties with respect to claims of fisheries jurisdiction, fishing access rights, and other aspects of international law. The Treaty minimized issues that once created conflict and now serves as the foundation for a strong and mutually-beneficial relationship from which we can come together to resolve new and evolving challenges.
Fisheries resources in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean are some of the most valuable tuna in the world. The South Pacific Tuna Treaty is not only a cornerstone for cooperation between the Pacific Islands and the United States, but has also helped establish fisheries observer and data reporting requirements as well as monitoring, control and surveillance standards for the region’s fisheries, all of which are vital to deterring illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The United States is currently working with the Forum Fisheries Agency to outline what the nature of the Treaty will look like beyond 2013, and is hopeful we will once again reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial for all of the Parties concerned and promotes sustainability of these valuable resources.