Two longline vessels fined for illegal fishing by NOAA
An American Samoa based longline vessel has been given a proposed fine for illegally fishing in closed fishing grounds around territorial waters while a Hawai’i-based longliner vessel has also been given a proposed fine for illegally fishing in Samoa’s exclusive economic zone, according to a Enforcement Activities report as of Sept. 30 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement (OLE).
The report, submitted to last week’s 168th meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, didn’t provide the dates of when the citations were issued or the names of the vessels involved, and OLE didn’t immediately respond to Samoa News questions.
However, an industry source that is familiar with issuance of Notice of Violation Assessment (NOVA), said yesterday that NOAA usually doesn’t provide specific details of those involved when it comes to the NOVA, because of possible ongoing investigation.
According to the report, the Pacific Islands General Counsel Enforcement Section issued a NOVA (a proposed civil fine) of $49,012 to an American Samoa based longline vessel that was found to have unlawfully fished in the Rose Atoll National Marine Monument and the American Samoa Large Vessel Prohibited Area, which is reserved for the local traditional Alia fleet.
The report also says that NOAA-OLE agents in American Samoa initiated an investigation from vessel monitoring system (VMS) positional data which appeared to show illegal fishing activity within the EEZ of Samoa by a U.S. Hawaii-based, commercial longline fishing vessel.
The investigation subsequently identified illegal fishing in the EEZ of Samoa and the investigation against the vessel resulted in the issuance of a $172,270 NOVA by the Pacific Islands General Council Enforcement Section.
The report also revealed that NOAA-OLE agents in American Samoa conducted an investigation involving the unattended death of a Pacific Islands Fishery Forum Agency (FFA) Observer while serving onboard a U.S. flagged fishing vessel in the South Pacific.
The body of the Fijian observer was brought into American Samoa at which time it was examined and interviews were conducted with the crew during concurrent investigations with the territory’s Department of Public Safety and U.S. Coast Guard. The NOAA enforcement officers assisted with the transfer of the body to the morgue and took custody of the observer’s work products and personal property, and reviewed the personal logs and records for any indications of conflict or issues between the observer and vessel’s crew.
The officers found no conflicts or issues during the aforementioned interviews or in the subject documents. A copy of the death certificate was obtained, which stated that the death was due to natural causes.
The observer’s work products were released to the NOAA observer program for shipment to the FFA observer program and the personal property was released for transfer with the body back to Fiji.
Samoa News notes that FFA observers work on board US vessels fishing in the region