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APIA, Samoa (October 13, 2000 - Samoa Observer/PINA Nius Online)---The Cabinet has approved a management plan that will restrict the number of boats in Samoa’s tuna longline fishery.

All vessels participating in the longline fishery will now be required to have a Tuna Longline License. The aim of restricting the numbers of boats is to ensure the sustainability of the tuna fishery by maintaining economically viable catch rates.

The Fisheries Division presented a tuna fishery management plan to the Commercial Fisheries Advisory Committee (CF-MAC) for consideration in November 1999. The CF-MAC was established last year with representatives from the government and fishing industry to address development and management issues concerning the tuna fishing industry.

The increased fishing effort has resulted in the catch rates declining. Catch rates have decreased from 94 kg (206 pounds) per 100 hooks in 1994 to 62 kg (136 pounds) in 1999.

The Head of Fisheries, Ueta Fa’asili, said, "If the fishing effort continues to increase at the present rate then the average catch rates could decrease to less than 43 kg (94 pounds) per 100 hooks in another three years. Most fishing vessels (then) would not be able to operate profitably."

After discussing this issue at length at three meetings the members finally voted in favor of a licensing plan that will restrict the number of vessels over 10 meters (11 yards) in the tuna longline fishery. Under the new plan, no restrictions will be made on the number of license for small alias (10 meters or less in length) as the number of alias has been declining due to the decreased catch rates and low profits.

However, restrictions are placed on the number of licenses for larger vessels.

The larger vessels are divided into different classes according to length. Length classes and the recommended number of licenses to made available are the following:

Class A: Vessels up to and including 10 meters (11 yards) Present number of vessels: 132 Licenses available: No limit.

Class B: Vessels over 10 m and up to 12.5 m (13 yards) Present number of vessels: 9 Licenses available: 25

Class C: Vessels over 12.5 m (13 yards) and up to 15 m (16.5 yards) Present number of vessels: 7 Licenses available: 15

Class D: vessels equal to or greater than 15 m (16.5 yards) Present number of vessels: 7 Licenses available: 8

The tuna longline fishing fleet has grown from 25 alias in 1994 to over 160 vessels in 2000. The increased number of hooks set by the fishing fleet has resulted in an additional 2 million hooks set each year since 1994. It is estimated that 10 million hooks will be set in 2000.

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