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DMWR: Loss of another purse seiner further threatens local economy

U.S. purse seiner fleet
While China’s fleet grows exponentially over the last two decades

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Taotasi Archie Soliai, Director of Marine & Wildlife Resources has recently written to the National Marine Fisheries Service of his “deep concern regarding the non-recognition of the US-flagged American Samoa based purse seine fleet as a locally based American Samoa fleet, and the detrimental impact this oversight” is having on the territory’s “fragile and marginalized economy”.

Addressed to Sarah Malloy, Acting Regional Administrator of NMFS, Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO), Taotasi’s letter, dated March 25, 2024, was deemed necessary due to “a recent report regarding the sale and reflagging of, yet another, US-flagged purse seiner vessel” —  Evelina da Rosa.

In his letter, the director of DMWR notes that there are now only 11 locally based US purse seiners, while “China’s fleet has grown exponentially in the last two decades to approximately 80 longliners, 500 purse seiners and 25 fish carriers.”

He points out that “Chinese policy with respect to food security and support for their fisheries far outweigh that of the US.”

Taotasi notes that the “downward trend in this fishery not only signifies a continued significant decline in our fishing fleet but also threatens the economic stability of American Samoa,” with the continued erosion of our fishery industry” resulting “in economic collapse for our territory, a fate that we cannot afford to entertain.”

He states that “it is imperative that NMFS takes immediate action to address this issue with the urgency it demands,” pointing to the plight of the territory’s fishing industry, “which serves as a vital lifeline for thousands of individuals and families in our community.”

The director says he understands “that there may be legal concerns and implications surrounding the recognition of the American Samoa-based purse seine fleet. However, it is crucial that these concerns are addressed in a manner that prioritizes the well-being of our community.”

He points out in his letter that “the Magnuson Stevens Act, particularly National Standard 8, emphasizes the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities, and it is clear that American Samoa meets the definition of such a community,” and urges Malloy to “recognize that the current trajectory is unsustainable and unjust for our community.

“The policies in place must be revisited to ensure that they do not disproportionately disadvantage struggling economies like American Samoa.”

Taotasi concludes that “the local tuna industry is not just an economic asset but a fundamental pillar of our community's well- being.

“Failure to address this issue comprehensively and effectively is simply not an option.

“A collapse of the tuna industry in American Samoa is a failure on the United States.

“This setback will benefit distant water fishing nations such as China!

The DMWR director implores Malloy “to prioritize the interests of our community and take decisive action to rectify this situation.

“We stand at a critical juncture where the future of our fishing industry hangs in the balance,” and trusts that she “will undertake the necessary steps to plug the holes in our current policies and safeguard the economic prosperity of American Samoa.”

Taotasi’s letter was cc’d to Governor Lemanu P.S. Mauga; Lt. Governor La’apui Talauega E.V. Ale; Janet Coit, NOAA Assistant Administrator; Dr. Richard Spinrad, NOAA Administrator; Kelly Kryc, DAS International Fisheries; Fred Tucher, NOAA General Counsel Pacific Islands; Kitty Simonds, WPRFMC Executive Director; and, Taulapapa W. Sword, WPRFMC Chair.


American Samoa has long been fighting for the recognition of American Samoa’s U.S.-flagged purse seiners that call Pago Pago home as a distinct fleet, which would afford them benefits as a Small Island Developing State and Participating Territory (SIDS/ PT).

In 2022, the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council called for improved negations within the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), where 60% of the global tuna supply is managed.

For American Samoa it called for the recognition of American’s Samoa’s ‘distinct fleet’ because without this, it is difficult for American Samoa to compete internationally and jeopardizes the existence of a “local” American Samoa fleet to supply the cannery. This poses a threat to the economy of American Samoa.

“The international playing field must be leveled for the United States within WCPFC fisheries management, particularly to ensure American Samoa’s rights as a SIDS/ PT are respected and acknowledged,” the WPRFMC said in a 2022 press release.