Japan, Marshall Islands’ negotiations reach impasse

Japan and the Marshall Islands' negotiations for a new fisheries access accord have disintegrated are may not resume until 2011.

Japanese negotiators rejected the Marshall Islands' request for a larger portion of the tuna "pie," explained Glen Joseph, who directs the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority.

"We're singing a new song. We've been getting five per cent (of the total value of tuna caught in Marshall Islands waters). We want to look at the other 95 percent," he said.

The Marshall Islands wants to develop its domestic fishing sector as part of the new Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) to expand fishing benefits to its denizens, PACNews reports.

PNA is made up of the eight western Pacific Island nations with power over the fishing zones that envelop most of the annual US$3.0 billion worth of harvested tuna.

Joseph said that, despite the failed negotiations, Japanese purse seine fishing vessels can still fish in Marshall Island waters under a temporary agreement. The failed agreement, though, did not hamper an US$8.0 million Japanese investment in a new fish market plant expected to open in January in the capital of Majuro.

A Japanese official said that Japan is waiting for the Marshall Islands to press for another round of talks.

There was a "fundamental breakdown" in the negotiations for a new agreement, Joseph said, because Japanese negotiators refused to accept the Marshall Islands' new position, which is incongruous with past agreements.

The Marshall Islands wants to surpass the collection of license fees to obtain investments from Japan to plump up its domestic fisheries operations through the likes of processing facilities, on-shore repair plants for vessels and other employment producing efforts.

Japanese negotiators also rejected the Marshall Islands' wish to impose a new licensing system called the "vessel day scheme" that licenses "effort" instead of boats and is being enforced throughout the Pacific Ocean.

Even though in the past the Marshall Islands gathered license fees based on an agreed number of Japanese fishing boats, Joseph said, the Islands now seek to modify the agreement to apply the "vessel day scheme," which island nations have concurred is more effective and more profitable than licensing individual vessels.

Developing the local fishing sector provides the country with jobs and other earnings, Joseph pointed out.

"We're adding value to their (Japan's) economy," he affirmed.

"Why can't we add value to ours? It is more than just collecting license fees."

Natalia Real (Fishing Information and Services)

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