The western Pacific tuna fishery is a lucrative one for the U.S. fleet; however, this year the fleet isn’t catching anything.
For the first time in 30 years, U.S. vessels have been blocked from the fishery due to a conflict over fees. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) says U.S. vessels can’t engage in fishing the region until new licenses are issued.
The prohibition began Jan. 1.
The issue stems from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) not issuing new licenses. The U.S. tuna industry has not made a $17 million quarterly payment for fishing access.
Back in August, the U.S. tuna industry bought 5,000 fishing days. However, some companies said they couldn’t afford it, so the U.S. asked the FFA to take back 2,000 days.
FFA refused, citing that the agency had informed the U.S. at that time that its industry didn’t need that many fishing days.
Almost 40 U.S. vessels fish tuna in the western Pacific and catch between $300-400 million worth of the fish annually.