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CONGRESSMAN ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA American Samoa U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE December 18, 2000


Congressman Eni Faleomavaega announced that the U.S. Congress has approved three fishery bills in the last days of the 106th Congress. These bills will provide increased funding for coral reef conservation, authorize emergency action for coral reef preservation, authorize the transfer of a NOAA research vessel to the American Samoa Government and prohibit the practice of shark finning in U.S. waters.

"After over a year of back and forth negotiations, I am very glad to report that much of the fisheries legislation I had hoped to get through Congress this year has finally been passed by both the U.S. House and Senate," said Faleomavaega. "While we didn't get everything we wanted in this area, much of the language that we found most environmentally detrimental was removed, and the legislation moved forward."

Faleomavaega said that these bills will have a direct impact on American Samoa. Funding to map, monitor, study, preserve and restore coral reefs will be substantially increased. One of these bills provides an authorization of $16 million per year nationally, which supports the money appropriated to the Commerce Department for the current fiscal year.

"The provision I announced previously authorizing the transfer of a NOAA oceanographic research ship to American Samoa was also included in these bills," noted the Congressman. "This vessel will not be available immediately, but it is my intention to consult closely with the Governor (Tauese Sunia) to see if it is practical to convert the vessel to transport cargo and passengers to the Manu'a Islands, as well as other possible uses.

"We all know the destruction the grounded long liners did to the coral reefs of American Samoa. Even with two ASG administrations and myself working on getting the vessels removed, it took years to get the federal government to act. The problem was that there was no legal authorization for any federal agency to solve the problem. To address this concern, I added a provision to one of these three bills which gives specific authorization to the Department of Commerce to award grants to address damage to coral reefs resulting from unforeseen or disaster-related circumstances," continued the Congressman.

"I have spoken out in the past concerning the practice of killing sharks only for their fins. I do not believe this to be an environmentally-sound practice, and it provided no economic benefit to American Samoa," said Faleomavaega. The legislation passed by Congress makes shark finning illegal in U.S. waters, and directs the Secretary of Commerce to initiate discussions to promote an international ban on this practice.

"I would have preferred to see this legislation adopted months ago, along with the reauthorization of the Coastal Zone Management Act which did not pass Congress this year. Nevertheless, we achieved many of our goals for the 106th Congress, and I'll start again on the remaining goals with the new Congress in January," concluded Faleomavaega.

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