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Westpac proposes recognizing Am Samoa’s U.S.-flagged purse seiners as a distinct fleet

American Samoa’s U.S.-flagged purse seiners
A new Pacific strategy to advance US Interests
compiled by Samoa News staff

Honolulu, HAWAII — With China vying for greater influence in the Pacific, concerns over food security amid the current supply chain crisis and inflation, the importance of fisheries to the people of the Western Pacific Region has never been so apparent, according to information from the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council.

Fisheries are critical to the welfare of Hawai‘i, American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI). The United States must act now to ensure the prosperity of the U.S. Pacific Islands and protect national influences by strengthening its positions in international fisheries negotiations. Specifically, to improve negotiations within the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), where 60% of the global tuna supply is managed.

The Council has developed an informational paper outlining these needs that was distributed to the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, the Interior and State Dept. Thus far, responses have been supportive, with some commitments to prioritize fisheries through cooperating with Pacific Island nations.

For American Samoa, where tuna fisheries contribute to one third of the total workforce, mostly through a StarKist cannery, and 90% of exports the Council has recommended recognizing 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).

The fact that they are not recognized as such makes it difficult for them 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 Council will consider taking final action on the specification of the 2023 U.S. territorial bigeye longline limits for American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

Bigeye tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) is internationally managed and assessed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which develops catch and effort limits for member nations. A 2020 stock assessment concluded the bigeye tuna stock in the WCPO is not overfished or experiencing overfishing. Small Island Developing States and Participating Territories (including American Samoa, Guam and the CNMI) are not subject to catch limits for bigeye tuna in consideration of their fishery development aspirations.

Through its Pacific Pelagic FEP, the Council recommends a catch limit for each U.S. territory and allows transfer of part of its catch limit through specified fishing agreements to U.S.-flagged longline vessels that operate out of Hawai‘i.

The Council will also hear from its advisory bodies on the draft National Marine Fisheries Service bottomfish fisheries biological opinion. The assessment concluded bottomfish fisheries in Hawai‘i, American Samoa and the CNMI are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence or recovery of Endangered Species Act-listed species such as the oceanic whitetip shark because interactions affect less than 0.0001% of its population.

(Source: Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council press releases)