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Local Fisheries Task Force mainly supports fed proposed rule for management of “Area of Overlap”

US National Marine Fisheries Service logo
However, there are concerns over “cross-endorsed observers”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s Fisheries Task Force chairman, Solip Hong, has come out in support of a federal proposed rule, which addresses management of the “Area of Overlap” between the Convention Areas of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

In his Nov. 22 comment letter to the US National Marine Fisheries Service, Hong prefers to place the overlap area under the “sole management” of IATTC, instead of the joint management of both the IATTC and WCPFC.

“The overlap area is an important fishing ground for the American Samoa based US flag purse seine fleet due to the geographic proximity of the overlap zone to American Samoa,” he wrote.

Also, unlike the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) countries, Tokelau and Cook Islands, there are no access fees for fishing in the high seas of the overlap area, he points out.

He notes that the current practice of applying both the WCPFC and IATTC management measures to the overlap area “is redundant and is a wasteful use of compliance, monitoring, surveillance and regulatory resources.”

Hong does have a concern with the proposed rule, which is the provision that the WCPFC measures relating to monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) measures would continue to apply in the Overlap Area.

This provision is referred to as cross-endorsed observers by both IATTC and WCPFC.

According to Hong, the proposed rule for the overlap area “seems wasteful and operationally impractical” in that it requires both IATTC and WCPFC observers — or a cross-endorsed IATTC/WCPFC observer.

“Cross-endorsed observers are not always available. Vessels operating from American Samoa may not be able to fish in the overlap area if they cannot find an IATTC observer or a cross-endorsed observer,” he argued.

“We are trying to attract fishing vessels to operate out of American Samoa so our canneries will have access to their catch,” he explained, adding that locally based purse seiners are “critically important for the supply of tuna to our tuna dependent economy.”

“Those purse seiners need access to the overlap area. Access to the overlap area will be effectively blocked if the boats have to take observers from both the WCPFC and the IATTC when those observers or cross-endorsed observers are not available,” he concluded.

Nov. 22 was the last day to submit comments on the overlap issue. See Samoa News edition on Nov. 22 on reaction from the American Tunaboat Association and Tri Marine International.