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Pacific News Briefs

compiled by Samoa News staff

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — As Samoa navigates through the digital age, the once bustling post offices face an uncertain future, underscored by the stark reality of over a hundred empty mailboxes across the country. This development beckons a critical reflection on the evolving means of communication and the diminishing role of traditional letter writing in today's society.

The advent of email and instant messaging has drastically transformed the way we communicate, relegating snail mail to a nostalgic practice rather than a necessity.

In Samoa, this shift is palpable, with an increasing number of mailboxes standing deserted, a silent testament to the changing times. The relevance of postal services in an era dominated by digital communication platforms is being questioned, as the convenience and speed of online interactions overshadow the charm of handwritten letters.

The empty mailboxes in Samoa are not just a sign of an obsolete service; they are a call to action for innovation and adaptation in how we connect with one another. As we move forward, reflecting on the significance of these changes will be crucial in shaping a future that respects the past while eagerly embracing the new.

 (BNN News)


Science advisors to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPFMC) accepted two recent bottomfish stock assessments for the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) and Guam as the best scientific information available (BSIA).

The assessments found the MHI deep-seven stock is not overfished and not experiencing overfishing, and the Guam stock is likely not overfished and likely not experiencing overfishing relative to reference points.

The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) endorsed the 2023 benchmark stock assessment and recommended the Council initiate the process for setting an updated acceptable biological catch and specifying annual catch limits (ACLs). 

SSC members suggested upcoming assessments explore age-based models and conduct tests to check the accuracy of data standardization methods. They also voiced concerns about using data from the Hawai‘i Marine Recreational Fishing Survey to determine fishing effort and proposed different ways to estimate catch levels from various sectors.

Regarding the Guam bottomfish fishery, the SSC accepted the 2024 assessment and recommended the Council determine if the ACLs for Guam bottomfish need revision within the current rebuilding plan. The fishery is operating under a rebuilding plan that addresses its previously overfished condition based on the 2019 assessment. It uses an associated ACL of 31,000 pounds to rebuild the stock. 

(WPFMC press release)


The Samoa government announces plans to revisit policies concerning overseas medical treatments for elderly pensioners, aiming to improve their healthcare access.

This decision was prompted by concerns raised by opposition members in Parliament, spotlighting the challenges faced by pensioners when accessing medical care abroad. Minister of Finance, Lautimuia Uelese Va'ai, responded to these concerns, affirming the government's commitment to ensuring pensioners retain their financial support while seeking essential medical services outside the country.

The government's initiative to renegotiate overseas medical treatment policies for elderly pensioners marks a significant step towards enhancing the welfare and healthcare access of this vulnerable population. By addressing the procedural and financial hurdles encountered by pensioners, the government aims to ensure that elderly citizens receive the care and support they need, irrespective of their geographical location.

(BNN News)


Samoa Parliament members of the opposition have urged the Ministry of Education in Samoa to enforce compulsory education legislation rigorously. The aim is to keep students off the streets during school hours and even beyond, with the overarching goal of eliminating child labor and ensuring every child's right to education. The calls for action were catalyzed during deliberations on the Annual Reports from the National University of Samoa and the Ministry of Education and Culture for the year 2021/2022.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Lauofo Pierre Lauofo, spearheaded the initiative, advocating for strategies to support families whose children are currently engaged in street vending activities during school hours. Lauofo emphasized the importance of ensuring these children are in school, rather than on the streets, struggling to make ends meet.

Moreover, concerns were raised by the Member of Parliament for Faleata No.3, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, regarding the distressing sight of children vending goods late into the night while their mothers indulged in bingo sessions.

(BNN News)


The Fiji Meteorological Service has a heavy rain warning still in place for the whole of the country after a weekend of flooding, although some floodwaters have receded.

Flood and flash flood warnings and alerts are also in place, including a warning for all flash flood-prone areas, small streams and low-lying areas of Vanua Levu and western Viti Levu, and an alert for all flash flood-prone areas, small streams and low-lying areas in the rest of Fiji.

All schools in the Northern, and Western education divisions, including Ovalau, will be closed on Monday due to adverse weather that has affected these areas.

On Sunday night, the education permanent secretary Selina Kuruleca said some schools are being used as evacuation centers.

"There are also reports of power outages, water cuts, and disruption to public transportation.

"Heads of schools in the mentioned education divisions and district are to closely work with school management committees to assess the status of your schools," she said.

National Disaster Management Offiice director Vasiti Soko said as of midday on Sunday, about 12 evacuation centers were open in the west, sheltering about 230 people.

"Some of the evacuation centers that were opened [Saturday] night have closed early [Sunday] morning as families have safely returned home once floodwaters receded."

Also in her statement on Sunday, she said there had not been any reported cases of injury or casualty.

(RNZ Pacific)


The Fa'asaleleaga No. 2 district council has suspended their secretary while they look into the disappearance of SAT175,000, which was part of the district development grant.

This was confirmed by the deputy chair and committee members of the district council to the Samoa Observer on Thursday.

It is understood the Ministry of Finance on behalf of the steering committee is in charge of carrying out the investigation.

Finance Minister Lautimu'ia Uelese Va'ai confirmed the investigation into how the grant was utilized is ongoing, with no definitive answers yet.

The member of Parliament for Faasaleleaga No 2 Magele Sekati Fiaui, also the Associate Minister of Finance, faces mounting pressure as questions regarding the funds persist.

Despite repeated calls for clarification and response, Magele's failure to engage with the district has contributed to the frustration and delay in implementing vital development projects within the area.

(RNZ Pacific)


Tonga's Prime Minister Hu'akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni has met with Tang Zhiwen from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nuku'alofa.

Matangi Tonga reported Tang Zhiwen is the deputy director-general of the Department of North American and Oceania Affairs.

He is in charge of bilateral relations between China and Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands countries.

Hu'akavameiliku's office said the pair discussed areas of mutual interest in strengthening China-Tonga friendly relations, and exchanged views on issues of common concern.

(RNZ Pacific)


Incumbent US President Joe Biden topped the Northern Mariana Islands' Democratic Party's first ever presidential primary after he received 93 of 99 votes.

Voters across Rota, Tinian, and Saipan participated in the primary, held from March 5 -12.

The 2024 Democratic National Convention will take place in Chicago in August, to nominate the Democratic Party's candidates for president and vice president of the US.

The Northern Mariana Islands Democratic Party will have 11 delegates at the convention: five automatic delegates composed of party leaders and elected officials, and six delegates who were elected in the primary.

Members of the Northern Marianas' delegation will also serve on standing committees at the Convention.

(RNZ Pacific)


A former US Air Force officer turned explorer says he is 80 percent sure he has found the missing plane of Amelia Earhart.

In 1937, Amelia Earhart's attempt to circumnavigate the globe ended in tragedy when her plane vanished over the vast South Pacific.

Tony Romeo's company Deep Sea Vision's sonar technology has detected a shape about 100 kilometres off Howland Island, which is southeast of the Marshall Islands and west of Kiribati.

Romeo said the image was taken from an underwater vehicle using a sonar to shoot out acoustic waves to both sides of the torpedo-like object.

He said the next step is to revisit the site, perhaps with different equipment, where the object sits about 5000 metres deep — deeper than the Titanic.

"Yeah I think that's the next step — we've got to go back, maybe with different equipment," he said.

"We've talked about going back with an RV, taking good pictures, seeing how it's sitting in the sand, and then based on what we see, engineer a solution to slowly raise the plane.

"We believe strongly that this aircraft needs to be brought home... [Earhart] would want to be brought home, I'm sure."

Tony Romeo also plans to spend two weeks near Kiribati looking for World War II objects.

(RNZ Pacific)