WestPac defers action on fishing area exemption
Until further discussions and public hearings are held with American Samoa officials and representatives, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has “deferred action” on a proposal to provide a temporary exemption for longliners to fish within portions of the territory’s Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA), according to a Council news release.
The Council’s decision was made last Friday at the completion of its three-day meeting in Honolulu, where they also recommended that, among other things, the American Samoa National Marine Sanctuary program complete a study to identify direct economic benefits of the Sanctuary to American Samoa.
LVPA DEFERRED ACTION
To provide support to the American Samoa longline fishery for albacore, the Council at its March 2014 meeting in Guam began looking at providing a temporary exemption to fish within portions of the American Samoa’s LVPA, which was developed to address potential conflict with the small-scale alia fishery, the news release says.
Additionally, the alia fishery has subsequently declined in size.
At the conclusion of last Friday’s meeting, the Council affirmed its support for all forms of pelagic fishing in American Samoa and the need to balance existing fishing activity and fishery development aspirations.
“It deferred action until further discussions and public meetings are held with representatives of the American Samoa government, Swains Island, Tutuila, Manua Islands and American Samoa fishermen. The Council will reconsider the LVPA at its next meeting, Oct. 20-23, 2014, in Honolulu,” the release says.
Two public hearings were held in the territory in May this year on the LVPA issue but there was strong opposition from alia owners and others in the community. Then two weeks ago, the Council Of Treaty Chiefs of Tutuila, Aunu’u, and Manu’a and the Council of District Governors of American Samoa in a June 17 Joint Statement to the Council strongly opposed any action on the LVPA.
They were joined later in a separate letter from Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to the Council's executive director Kitty M. Simonds, saying that ASG has not been given an opportunity to comment on the matter. Lolo also voiced his concerns over the extension of federal control over “our territorial assets.”
In its news release last Friday, the Council also said it will request Certificate of Origin information from the National Marine Fisheries Service for foreign landings in Pago Pago to evaluate landings trends and assess the leakage of foreign-caught fish into local markets.
The Council says it will consult with fishing industry representatives to develop a fisheries training program and assist the American Samoa government:
• to identify potential markets for locally caught fish in American Samoa and to explore the potential for fish for the Manu`a Islands to be used in the local school lunch program;
• to standardize docking fees for fishing vessels in Pago Pago Harbor and assist in the planning activities to address dock space for all vessels in Pago Pago including container ships, cruise ships and purse seiner, longline and alia fishing vessels; and
• to identify the potential impacts to the Territory of the proposed expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.
“The Council additionally recommended that the American Samoa National Marine Sanctuary program complete a study to identify direct economic benefits of the Sanctuary to American Samoa and draft a research plan. The plan should be made available for review to local agencies, community members and the Council,” the statement says.
The Council also recommended that the American Samoa government reestablish the American Samoa Ocean Regional Council and consider participation by ocean users and other affected individuals and businesses.
Samoa News should point out that the governor - in his letter to Simonds - also noted local concerns over the expansion of the Sanctuary, saying that the “lack of federal government sensitivity to the vehement objections from our people on the expansion of Sanctuaries, usurping traditional fishing grounds, fell on deaf ears.” (See June 24 edition for complete details of the governor’s letter to Simonds.)