NMI to get ‘as much as it can’ from proposed tuna quota transfer

Hawaii Longline Association offers $200K for 3 years for CNMI’s 1,000 metric tons

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said Monday he wants to “get as much as we can” from a proposed deal by Hawaii longliners to buy half of the CNMI’s tuna fishing quota for a couple of hundred thousand dollars per year, allowing them to fish past their annual catch limits if exhausted.

The Hawaii Longline Association wrote to Torres in February and offered a three-year deal—with $200,000 paid out each year—to allow their fishing vessels to catch up to 1,000 metric tons of bigeye tuna “against the CNMI catch limit,” Saipan Tribune learned. The offer is made on the expectation that Hawaii longliners would exhaust their own catch quota, and similar agreements with the CNMI have been made in the last several years.

The offered payment is not tied down to whether the longliners actually end up using the CNMI quota, Saipan Tribune learned, and the $200,000 would be paid without regard the amount of catch HLA has in any given year.

“I am trying to get as much as we can,” Torres said on Monday, “by meeting with our stakeholders in Hawaii and utilizing what we have here and seeing what we gave last year and what are giving up in the years coming.” Torres will be in Hawaii for three days and flew out yesterday.

Asked if he has received any information whether the offer was a “lowball,” Torres said the CNMI’s neighboring islands asked for $1 million “and that was shot down right away.”

“As much as we want a million dollars we will get as much as we can” so “that the industry continue to grow,” Torres said.

Still, an industry source from a neighboring island said the $200,000 price was “not enough.”

Using their formula to calculate market value of tons per yen or dollar, the source estimated a market value for the CNMI’s 1,000 metric tons at between $887,280 to $1.2 million.

The CNMI is allotted 1,000 metric tons for big eye tuna as part of regulations in for fishing in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean as managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Office of the Governor spokesman Ivan Blanco earlier said that the CNMI is “actively reviewing available options including comparable market values from nearby island countries before an acceptance of the offer will be made.”

Department of Lands and Natural Resource Secretary Richard Seman, for his part, said they always do and hope for money but at the same time, “we want to be reasonable and extend our assistance to the Hawaii Longline Fishery Association who had been cut short by the overall international” regulations.

Asked if he thought the offer was market value or “a fair price,” Seman said it was not so much market value as “it is not based on what they catch.”

“They are just assuming that they catch that amount of quota. If they don’t catch anything, it is their loss,” he told reporters Monday.

Seman said the United States has been in the “forefront of compliance” under the rules that Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission has set up but it was “sad that [the U.S.] gets kind of shortchanged at the end of the day when it comes down to allocation” of fishing quota.

Seman said U.S. longliners are now using “its own territories’ quota” but added they are not going out and seeking other national quotas as compared to other longliners from China who are buying out some of Japan’s quota.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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