April 4, 2011

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

March 29, 2011 Palikir, Pohnpei, FSM--As the representatives of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) make their way to Tuvalu for round table discussions, the much touted and largely lauded Third Implementing Arrangement is a shaky house of cards. The FSM representatives including the Secretary for Foreign Affairs will be traveling to the meeting armed with the full support of the FSM Congress to bring a tough message. On Tuesday, March 29 the FSM Congress made one of its strongest statements in recent memory when it passed a resolution requesting that the President urge three PNA countries to ratify and implement that arrangement without delay or to give notice to the Depository of the Nauru Agreement of the FSM's withdrawal from the Third Implementing Arrangement.

The Third Implementing Arrangement of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement was widely lauded particularly as it was able to accomplish what many other fisheries organizations had not-to effectively close down the roughly 2.8 million square miles of western and central Pacific high seas pockets to fishing. Islands Business magazine went so far as to name PNA as the Organization of the Year for 2010.

The Parties to the Nauru Agreement include the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. The EEZ's of those eight countries represent the world's most profitable waters for the tuna industry. The purpose of the Nauru Agreement is to ensure that the parties cooperate in the management of their respective exclusive economic zones so that their citizens can be assured of receiving the maximum benefits from their resource. It's a front of solidarity for the good of all of the citizens in the eight member nations in the Pacific.

The Third Implementing Arrangement which the FSM signed in 2008 and Congress ratified early this year set additional terms and conditions of access to the exclusive economic zones of the parties, including a requirement that fishing vessels licensed to fish in any of those EEZ's be prohibited from fishing in the high seas as a condition of their licenses. Though Congress only ratified the Third Implementing Arrangement in January the FSM has been implementing that arrangement as part of its licensing agreements since it was signed in 2008.

But the Third Implementing Arrangement of that agreement is currently wobbly at best. The only way that the PNA can be effective at all is if all of the eight member countries act in concert and consistently across their EEZ's but that has not been happening.

Kiribati which has the largest EEZ in the region, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands which together represent the most productive tuna fishing grounds in the region have not yet ratified or implemented the Third Implementing Arrangement of PNA. They have been issuing fishing licenses for their EEZ's that allow the license holder to fish in the high seas pockets.

The high seas pockets are those areas that lie in the area of water that is outside the domain of any country. The EEZ's of the Pacific Island countries extend out 200 miles from the land borders of those countries. Those waters are unregulated since they are not in the legal control of any country. The third implementing arrangement of the PNA essentially says, "Fine, we can't stop you from fishing the high seas pockets but if you do you will not be able to fish our much larger waters as well." That tactic only works if all of the countries ratify and implement the Third Implementing Arrangement.

FSM Senators toyed briefly with the idea of blacklisting the vessels that have been fishing the otherwise closed high seas pockets but ultimately decided that plan was not nearly strong enough and is ineffectual in terms of eliminating the economic disadvantage that arises because of the non-compliance of the three member nations.

Senators also wondered if the timing for the resolution was right with the PNA roundtable just around the corner. Speaker Isaac V. Figir said that he had discussed the matter with President Mori and was told that the resolution would be extremely helpful in its negotiations at that meeting.

The Congress resolution said that because of the current practices of Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands the Federated States of Micronesia "is thus placed at a competitive disadvantage with respect to the terms it can offer in fisheries agreements."

The same could be said about any other member nation.