Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has signed an agreement with a Hawaii longline fishing group to sell half of the CNMI’s bigeye fishing tuna quota, or 1,000 metric tons, to the fishing group for $250,000 every year for a three-year period.
The “specified fishing agreement,” copies of which were obtained by Saipan Tribune yesterday, was struck on April 14 between the CNMI and the Quota Management, Inc. and the Hawaii Longline Association.
The agreement does not mean these longliner vessels can fish in CNMI waters but allows the Hawaii fishermen haul bigeye tuna past their own fishing limits, when exhausted.
Per the agreement, the longliner groups will “annually contribute” $250,000 for calendar years 2016, 2017, and 2018, “into the Western Pacific Fisheries Fund in support of” fisheries development projects under the CNMI’s marine conservation plan.
A payment of $125,000 will be made no later than Sept. 1 of the calendar year and another payment of $125,000 will be made no later than Dec. 1 of the applicable calendar year.
The funds will be deposited into the Western Pacific Fisheries Fund “in support of the fisheries development projects identified in a territory’s Marine Conservation Plan.”
Senate vice president Arnold Palacios (R-Saipan), who was with Torres when the CNMI sealed a deal with the longliner officials in Hawaii last week, said this Fisheries Fund “covers over the money to” the CNMI Department of Land and Natural Resources for projects under its Micronesia Conservation Fund.
Palacios hopes the funds can be the “seeds” to grow an industry in the NMI to complement a growing development projects. Palacios noted geographic restrictions in the past with the CNMI having to reach market in Guam or Hawaii, but pointed to a potential market within the NMI with 1,000 plus new hotel rooms on the horizon.
The “covered over” funds will go to fund DLNR programs.
Other interested parties can submit project proposals as well.
A committee made up of government, community, and non-profit groups would vet these proposals.
The group would review the proposals and determine which should be funded.
The CNMI’s fishing quota was 2,000 metric tons for 2014 and 2015, but the limits for 2016, 2017, and 2018 have not been established.
According to the agreement, the parties “reasonably anticipate” a 2,000 catch limit for these three years.
In October 2014, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a final rule and amendment on regulations to establish a “management framework and process” for setting catch limits and accountability standards for pelagic fisheries in the U.S. territories.
The rule allows the government of each territory to allocate a portion of its specified catch limit to a U.S. fishing vessel or vessels through specified fishing agreements, and established criteria for these agreements.