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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 30, 2002 - Samoa News/PINA Nius Online)---People caught scuba fishing in American Samoa face a fine, jail time, or both under new laws.

Director of the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources Ufagafa Raymond Tulafono signed approval of revisions to administrative rules that include a permanent ban on scuba fishing.

Scuba gear and high-tech fishing equipment have been blamed for the depletion of reef fish stocks.

Officials said if nothing was done to stop the use of scuba gear for fishing, certain species of coral reef fish would have been wiped out.

"This is a happy day for our department," Ufagafa said.

Fines range from $35 to $500.

Any use of spears and other scuba equipment for daytime and nighttime fishing is illegal.

Meanwhile, the department's Community-Based Fishery Management Program has drawn the interest of several more villages.

They want to join the first three villages that started off the program, according to project manager Fatima Sauafea.

"The move by these villages is an indication that there is awareness of the positive impact of the program to the island's coastal reefs," Sauafea explained.

She added that there had been positive feedback from villages that had already joined the program since its launching last year.

Program officials had been working closely with these villages in monitoring the results of their efforts at marine management. So far, the villages report that their efforts are "going well."

The program was developed after research found that there is a major problem with the depletion of marine life.

Sauafea said that if local villages fully understand the consequences of over fishing and join the program, they would eventually see the benefit of the program.

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