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U.S. and Samoa sign addendum to maritime law agreement in the Pacific

The Samoa Minister of Police, Faualo Harry Schuster and U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Noriko Horiuchi
reporters@samoanews.com

Apia, SAMOA — The United States and the Independent State of Samoa have signed an addendum to the existing 2012 Bilateral Agreement, at U.S. Embassy Apia in Samoa, to continue and expand operational cooperation to suppress illicit transnational maritime activity, on April 5, 2024, according to a USCG press release.

“In partnership with Samoa, the United States stands committed to safeguarding and ensuring security of Samoa’s economic exclusive zone, by preserving its marine resources, environment, promoting sustainable development for future generations” said U.S. Embassy Apia, Samoa’s Charge d’Affaires, Noriko Horiuchi. 

The enhanced maritime law enforcement agreement represents another tool for Samoa to use to help combat transnational illicit maritime activity and illegal fishing activities within its EEZ.

This enhanced agreement enables Samoa to request the U.S. Coast Guard to inspect vessels and enforce their coastal state regulations without a Samoan officer present.

It does not replace the joint work conducted with Samoan shipriders; rather, it augments the capability and plays a crucial role in protecting marine ecosystems and the sustainable livelihoods they support.  

According to the USCG press release, the enhanced agreements demonstrate the United States’ commitment to a stable, secure and prosperous Pacific region.

“The strengthened partnerships in the Pacific have been invaluable in increasing the number of boardings within partners’ EEZs, which in turn has led to the deterrence, observation and reporting of vessel crew activities and fishing operations for partner nation’s enforcement agencies.

This advancement follows the similar agreements signed by the Federated States of Micronesia in October 2022, the bilateral defense agreement signed with Papua New Guinea in May 2023, and the enhanced maritime bilateral agreement with the Republic of Palau in August 2023. 

“We’re honored to sign this enhanced maritime bilateral agreement with our valued partner, the Independent State of Samoa. This agreement strengthens our collaborative efforts within the region,” said Capt. Tom D’Arcy, chief of response for U.S. Coast Guard District Fourteen in Honolulu.

“This agreement serves as a testament to the importance of maritime security in maintaining national sovereignty and regional stability, and we look forward to working even closer with Samoa to effectively address common maritime challenges in the Pacific.” 

Through bilateral law enforcement agreements, community engagements and senior leader visits, like the recent U.S. Coast Guard Commandant visit, and subject matter exchanges between maritime agencies, we continue to demonstrate how these partnerships significantly enhance our collective capacity to safeguard shared resources and build a prosperous Oceania that is inclusive and secure for all law-abiding nations. 

BACKGROUND

American Samoa has been pushing to have a U.S. Coast Guard military installation established in the territory to not only galvanize partnerships throughout the Southern Pacific to safeguarding erosion of geographic and economic sovereignty of island nations, but to address the territory’s increasing concerns surrounding illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing (IUUF) — especially with its US-based purse seiner fleet diminishing due to being sold to foreign interests, namely China.

The American Samoa economy relies heavily on fishing with its lone cannery and associated fishery activities the main engine of its economic growth.

American Samoa sees the law enforcement presence and know-how of the U.S. Coast Guard a boon to also safeguarding its efforts with climate change, as well as diversifying its economic growth.

The USCG currently has said no to permanently stationing Coast Guard cutters in American Samoa due to the lack of critical infrastructure that would require significant funds and creative planning, which the USCG does not have.

It has been suggested that perhaps the US Navy could assist with climate resilient infrastructure in the region, using facilities on American Samoa as a central operating location, and allowing use by the USCG.

To date, nothing concrete has been planned.