Pacific ACP members met with the EC at the beginning of October 2012 in Brussels, in order to reiterate their willingness to extend the global-sourcing provision to fresh and chilled tuna products. This would allow Pacific ACP members to source their fresh and chilled tuna products from sources other than local or EU fleets, including the main long-line fleets present in the region, such as Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China.
In an interview with Islands Business, the deputy director general of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency highlighted that for every 100 tonnes of fish processed onshore in the long-line fishery, six jobs are created, adding that: ‘A typical fresh frozen long-line tuna processing operation with 30 boats therefore creates 180 new jobs directly, a significant boost in small PICs.’
He added that the inclusion of global sourcing for fresh and frozen fish steaks or fillets in the comprehensive EPA could benefit small island states by attracting onshore investment in canning facilities. Currently, the EU mainly imports canned tuna, primarily from Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The EU also imports tuna loins and a small quantity of fresh and frozen tuna products from these countries.
The latest FFA Economic Indicators Update highlighted that, although 70% of the value of the long line catches are still made by distant water fleets, the ‘value of the catches by the FFA flagged vessels has steadily risen over the years to reflect increasing member country participation in the fishery especially through domestic fleet expansion and/or domestic basing of foreign fleets’.
While new markets are being explored including regional ones, for Pacific ACP countries, as for most ACP fish-producing countries, preferential access to the EU market is still of critical importance, and the relaxation of the rules of origin through the extension of global sourcing to unprocessed tuna products may play a positive role. But this should not hide the fact that other requirements to access the EU market, such as SPS standards, the IUU regulation, and maybe the new regulation against unsustainable fishing, have to be addressed before unprocessed tuna can access the EU market. However, and although exports of unprocessed fish products on the EU market are currently minimal, the demand for extending global sourcing may play a significant role in terms of attracting onshore investments by other distant-water fleets, and in ensuring a fairer redistribution of the EPA benefits amongst Pacific ACP members.