DMWR director: Council report on Manu’a alia boat owners is wrong
The Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources plans to use another funding source for alia boat repairs and upgrades in Manu’a, but not with proceeds from the $1 million American Samoa received following the 2009 tsunami, says DMWR director Va’amua Henry Sesepasara.
He was also disappointed with what he says is an incorrect headline on a Samoa News story published Wednesday, “$1Million of Disaster Relief Fund to be used for alia boat repairs” and a sub-headline “Includes hiring a contractor to repair alias in Manu’a”.
Based on details in the American Samoa Community Activities and Issues Report, submitted to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, the Samoa News reported Wednesday that Manu’a alia vessels in need of repairs and upgrades are among the projects to be funded with part of the $1 million.
There is a plan to have a dedicated vessel mechanic on Manu’a and DMWR will be hiring a contract to complete the repairs of the Manu’a alias and purchase necessary supplies, according to the report, which was publicly released last week on the Council’s website.
“This is not true,” said Va’amua referring to the use of a portion of the $1 million for Manu’a alia boats, saying that proceeds from the Disaster Funds “is only for alia boats on Tutuila” and this will be carried out by the ASG Shipyard Service Authority, which has conducted as assessment of the alias for repairs.
He said Manu’a alias repairs and upgrades will be covered under a separate funding source, which is a portion of the proceeds American Samoa receives from the federal government on penalties imposed on vessels fishing illegally in the territory's exclusive economic zone.
Va’amua plans to raise the issue of the incorrect information in the report about the Manu’a alia boats when he attends the Council’s 169th Meeting in Honolulu from Mar. 21-23.
Samoa News provided to Va’amua a copy of the American Samoa report, which he said he had not seen yet. Va’amua says he is disappointed about such incorrect information regarding the funding source for the Manu’a alia fishery.
During his tenure on the Governor’s Fishery Task Force, Va’amua conducted last year an assessment of the alia fleet in Manu’a. The assessment found that of the 15 alia boats on Ta’u island, only 2 are active and for Ofu and Olosega islands there are five alia boats, but only two are active also.
“So there is a need to repair and upgrade Manu’a’s alia fleet,” Va’amua said, adding that an estimated cost that would be spent on Manu’a’s alia fleet is not known yet.
He says he had discussed with the governor for a mechanic to travel to Manu’a to spend time there to teach and train alia owners on how to look after the engines of their boats. Additionally, DMWR is also looking at — as part of the plan — to hire a carpenter to repair and upgrade the alia fleet in Manu’a as well as working with the alia owners on ways to look after their boats.
Samoa News had sent email questions to the Council regarding Va’amua’s concerns about the report that is saying that proceeds of the $1 million was to be used for Manu’a island. The Council’s spokesperson acknowledged receipt of the question and was working on a response, which Samoa News didn’t receive as of press time.
And while he has received calls and praises from Manu’a alia owners finally getting help for them, Va’amua said he has also received a lot of calls from Tutuila alia fishermen and owners as to why the entire $1 million of the disaster fund is going to Manu’a instead of Tutuila alia operators — referring to the Wednesday’s Samoa News story headline and sub headline.
As of yesterday morning Samoa News has received at least five complaints about the story’s headline as “wrong” and “misleading” as well as Samoan and English words not fit for publication (targeting the reporter who wrote the story), although it was clearly mentioned in the body of the story that Manu’a alias were among the projects to be funded with the $1 million, with Tutuila alias also included.
However, it’s now confirmed by Va’amua that the report is wrong re Manu’a alias funding with the 2009 tsunami disaster money.
Samoa News apologizes to Va’amua and our readers for our unintentional misleading headline, but stand by our reporting of the Council’s report “as is”.