Local fisheries manager calls for balance in PIRA sanctuary designation
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — While supportive of marine preservation and conservation efforts, locally-based, Feli Fisheries Inc., asserts “that these must be balanced with the preservation of the livelihoods and lifestyle of the American Samoan people.”
This is part of Feli Fisheries’ comment letter, submitted by Edgar Feliciano, the company’s Fleet & Operations Manager, in response to the federal proposal for marine sanctuary designation for the Pacific Remote Island Areas (PIRA) — a move that would expand the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument.
Feliciano informed federal fishery regulators that the proposed discontinuation of the traditional fishing areas represents far-reaching implications, extending beyond the immediate scope of the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument enlargement.
“These impacts and resultant actions are interconnected and cannot be regarded as isolated events,” he said.
Feliciano declared that the “proposed extension of an already enlarged Marine National Monument throughout the Pacific region may precipitate unfavorable consequences for the US Purse Seine Fleet, potentially destabilizing American Samoa's economy, inclusive of the local American Samoa-based US Longline Fleet.
He argues that the proposal to restrict access to these traditional fishing grounds for the US fleet — areas, which are operationally convenient for delivery to American Samoa — represent a significant shift.
“Subsequent to any such imposed restrictions, the US Purse Seine fleet may be necessitated to venture further afield, thereby augmenting trip costs and potentially resulting in deliveries to alternate canneries,” he explained. “Such diversion of US Purse Seiners to other ports will consequently diminish the economic support to American Samoa.”
According to the company official, American Samoa — a developing US Territory located in the Pacific — has a high dependency on the fisheries sector.
“It is crucial, therefore, to underscore our appeal to sustain support for US Fisheries and maintain continued access to the US Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) around the Pacific Remote Islands,” he said.
“While we unequivocally endorse marine preservation and conservation efforts, we assert that these must be balanced with the preservation of the livelihoods and lifestyle of the American Samoan people,” he declared.
“To implement such policies without proper consideration of the resultant adverse effects on American Samoa's economy and its citizenry, may be construed as both reckless and potentially harmful,” he points out.
He warned federal officials that the potential ripple effects of these policies are far-reaching, potentially inflating the cost of living drastically — from foodstuffs to fuel and everyday items, the import costs could rise sharply.
He explained that the local economy, already strained, relies heavily on the export of canned tuna, which mitigates the cost of incoming goods. And this delicate balance could be disrupted if these proposed changes are enacted.
Moreover, the U.S. fishing fleet, while being the most tightly regulated in the world, continues to grapple with adversity from foreign fleets and regulatory measures imposed by our own government, he said.
“Instead of acknowledging the fleet's adherence to stringent regulations, it appears to be unfairly penalized due to a lack of understanding about the industry's complexities and challenges,” he said.
“Therefore, we urge a more comprehensive and balanced approach to these decisions that considers both the need for conservation and the potential economic impact on vulnerable communities like American Samoa,” he concluded.
Feliciano’s comment letter was posted to the federal portal (www.regulations.gov), which was gathering public comments on the federal proposal. Comment period closed on June 02 and Gov. Lemanu P.S Mauga has requested the U.S Commerce Department to extend it to June 16 or beyond, giving American Samoa to — among other things — “develop and provide evidence to support their objections” — to the proposed extension. (See yesterday’s Samoa News edition for the governor’s request.)
As of 8a.m. yesterday morning local time, there’s been no public information regarding the governor’s request.