Pacific Ocean Fora

​​​Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency

The department leads Australia’s engagement in the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), which was established in 1979. The FFA mission is to ‘enable member countries to manage, conserve and use the tuna resources in their exclusive economic zones and beyond, through enhancing national capacity and strengthening regional solidarity’.

FFA comprises the Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC), which is the governing body, and a Secretariat. The FFA presently has seventeen members - Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, each of which is represented on the FFC.

The FFA members operate as a bloc at meetings of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and its subsidiary bodies thereby strengthening the negotiating position of individual Pacific Island countries, including Australia, to influence the measures adopted by the Commission. FFA officials meet in advance of the WCPFC meetings to develop agreed negotiating strategies and positions on the issues being discussed.

FFA positions are supported by several FFC officials meetings and an annual ministerial meeting which set strategic direction for regional fisheries management, discussing policies focused on promoting regional cooperation in respect of fisheries and securing maximum benefits from the living marine resources of the region (particularly highly migratory species). A significant focus of the work performed by the FFC is developing regional strategies with regard to fisheries management and development.

Effective management of, and adequate returns from, regional fisheries to Pacific Island Countries (PICs) are important for regional stability and economic development. Fisheries represent both the major resource and the major development prospect for several PICs. Sustainable development of regional fisheries and better capture of economic returns could substantially improve these countries' economic self-reliance. Therefore, where appropriate, Australia promotes and supports regional policies or practices that may be strategic in the context of economic and social development of PICs.

Australia strongly supports the FFA as the institution responsible for implementation of regional fisheries programs and for coordination of regional approaches to multilateral engagement on fisheries.

For more information on the FFA see the FFA website.

Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) was established in 1947 and is one of the oldest regional organisations in the world. The SPC provides technical assistance, policy advice, training and research services to Pacific Island Countries and territories in various areas such as health, human development, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. When the FFA was established there was some initial confusion between the roles of FFA and SPC on fisheries matters. Since that time the delineation between each agency's functions has been agreed. SPC concentrates on the management of the Regional Tuna Fisheries Database and the provision of stock assessment and scientific advice, and has the lead role on coastal or inshore fisheries. FFA's role is to provide economic policy advice, coordinate and harmonise fisheries policies, and lead on tuna and other oceanic fisheries.  Notwithstanding, both agencies are interdependent in several critical areas, such as tuna fisheries monitoring and development. FFA is entirely dependent on the SPC for scientific advice and stock assessments, while the SPC is dependent on FFA for fisheries legislative and economics expertise. It is therefore critical that FFA and the SPC maintain a close working relationship.

For more information, including SPC membership, see the SPC website.

Treaty on Fisheries between the Governments of certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America (US Tuna Treaty)

The Treaty on Fisheries between the Governments of certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America (US Tuna Treaty) was negotiated following an incident in 1982 where the US imposed trade sanctions under the Magnusson Act when two Pacific Island Countries apprehended US tuna vessels fishing within their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). The US did not accept that any country had the right to exclude its vessels from fishing in the EEZ of another country for highly migratory species on the basis that such species did not belong to any country and had to be managed cooperatively. Under the terms of the Treaty, US-flagged purse seine vessels enjoy secure, long term access to the EEZs of 17 FFA member countries [(Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand (including Tokelau), Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu)].

The Treaty provides a valuable forum for Australia to advance its strong interests in the proper management of the fisheries resources in the Pacific region and contribute to the economic well-being and stability of the Pacific region.

The US Treaty came into force on 15 June 1988 for five years (expiring 14 June 1993) with US-flagged purse seine vessels granted an entitlement to fish for tuna (excluding southern bluefin tuna) in the EEZs of the Pacific Island Parties to the US Treaty in return for annual payments from the US Government and industry totalling US$14 million. Since 1993, Parties to the US Treaty have continued to extend the licensing periods in 10 year terms. Annual payments from the US Government and industry increased to US$18 million per year for the period 1993-2003, US$21 million per year for 2003-2012 and to US$45 million per year for 2012-13.

The terms of a new or revised treaty, are currently under negotiation.   In the interim, Parties have agreed to transitional arrangements, under which United States tuna fishing vessels will continue to have access to certain Pacific Island Parties’ waters to fish in exchange for an agreed financial package provided by the United States.