COUNCIL MAKES NEW FISHING RULES IN AMERICAN SAMOA

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By Aeo‘ainuu Aleki

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (October 6, 2000 - Samoa News/PINA Nius Online)---Local fishermen trying to get a share of tuna and other fish in the Pacific have been given a break by the ruling fisheries body in the United States and its territories.

More than 30 Pacific nations, including Japan and other Asian nations, sent delegates to a weeklong conference in Honolulu last month to discuss the formation of a Tuna Control Commission and other fisheries matters in the Pacific.

Coordinated by the National Marine Fisheries Service (Fisheries Council), the meeting made several key decisions that are bound to influence the future of tuna fishing in American Samoa.

American Samoa was granted a 50-mile closed zone, and a 200-mile Limited Entry Zone to be finalized in the near future, according to Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources Director Ray Tulafono.

The 50-mile closed zone is off-limits to any vessel that is not from the Territory, he said.

The Limited Entry Zone, for which authorization is still being finalized, forbids any foreign vessel (non-American Samoan vessels, although they may be American or from other U.S. possessions) from fishing within the 200-mile limit, if they do not comply with certain conditions for which details are still being worked out.

The conditions, Tulafono said, are what American Samoa will recommend to the council first before they go to the regional director. If the regional director approves the recommendation, the matter then is forwarded to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, who will either approve or deny it.

If it is denied, Tulafono says, matters go back to square one, where things have to start all over again.

He said the 50-mile closed zone was an alternative to the 100-mile zone initially requested by the local fishing community. When he knew the 100-mile zone proposal was in danger, he decided to lower the request conditionally to 50 miles.

Tulafono said the council had agreed to the 50-mile closed zone, while the Limited Entry Zone of 200 miles will be enforced after certain conditions have been put in place in about one to two months.

"The move to obtain a fair amount of space for our fishing zone was endangered by our insistence on the 100 mile limit," he recalled. "I know the regional director was dead set against it."

The reasons for the regional director's opposition include the size of the available local boats, which make it unsafe for them to go that far out.

"I knew the RD also had the authority to recommend our situation to the Secretary of Commerce, whose decision is final," Tulafono said. "The RD was dead set against us sending our small boats 100 miles out, and it was no use going against him."

The Territory was previously awarded a 50-mile closed zone together with Rose Island, while Swains had 30 miles. When the local fishing community fought for 100 miles instead, the boundaries were rescinded, according to Tulafono.

This led to the current movement to return the CZ to 100 miles, which now has been reduced to 50, but with the consolation of winning the 200-mile LEZ.

"The Limited Entry Zone is a kind of God send for us," Tulafono added. "Considering the availability of Hawai‘i’s longline tuna boats, because of the ban in force up there now, they are ready to come down our way. They will consume and dominate our limited fishing area."

"With the Limited Entry Zone, we can choose the number of ships allowed to come in, choose their size and capacities, as well as choose gear types and the methods of fishing employed," he pointed out.

"There is a chance we will be able to protect the supply of fish from being over-fished through the moratorium we are going to ask for as well as the Limited Entry Zone rule," the director told Samoa News.

"The September 15th deadline we had already filed for is now official," he continued. "It says foreign fishing vessels which have already fished in our waters and have already unloaded their catches at the local canneries by September 15th just passed would be allowed this Limited Entry.

"I want to tell the fishermen and interested members of the public, so far, that no foreign vessel has fished within our zone since the September 15th deadline, and therefore, no vessel now can be awarded limited entry rights under this Limited Entry Zone rule," Tulafono said.

"We are about to ask for a moratorium which I know the authorities are willing to grant in justified situations like ours," he revealed. "We will ask for a moratorium to prevent fishing of our waters during the time we are developing conditions and terms for the Limited Entry Zone.

"The moratorium would continue to apply up until the LEZ is approved," he added.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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