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American Samoa Governor addresses council

By Tina Mata’afa

APIA, Samoa (Samoa News, Mar. 25, 2009) - Governor Togiola Tulafono has asked the 144th Meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council to put local fishermen first when considering the issuance of permits to Hawai΄i fishing boats in order to help American Samoa meet or improve its bigeye catch.

The governor offered his support to the Council’s efforts in issuing permits to Hawai΄i fishing boats to help American Samoa meet or improve its quota for big eye catch.

"You have my complete support for the work of the Council, but I ask that you make sure that our local fishermen come first, if it appears that there will be a conflict," said Togiola.

He emphasized the need for support of local projects and the need for support of local capacity building.

In financing local projects the governor said "sometimes the Council’s intention is good, but the local implementation misses the point."

"I have expressed some concerns to some Council members about a project here that bears those elements. The intention is good, but what was revealed to me has the tendency of killing our local fishing fleet. I need to protect what we have, so we can build upon those sparse resources," he noted.

He voiced the need for the Council and American Samoa to work together to maximize the value of resources, "but always with an element of building local capacity."

"Ladies and gentlemen, a dog on a short leash never learns anything. It just follows the lead and desires of the owner," said Togiola. "Similarly, building local capacity can only be achieved with working side by side, and real opportunities created by true learning environments."

He wished the Council a successful meeting and in addition, expressed his gratitude to the Council for holding their meeting in the territory during these tough economic times.

In the territory for the meeting are WPRFMC Chairman Sean Martin, Executive Director Kitty M. Simonds, Council members, staff, advisory group members and participants from Hawaii, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa, Governor Togiola.

He said he is glad to have the Council here to "discuss your issues, as well as our local issues, and see our local conditions."

The governor commended the Council for meeting in the different jurisdictions, "and for looking out for us."

Togiola said the Council should always be in a position to hear about local fishery needs and offer support.

"Thank you for your help. You have embraced our concerns and our local needs and I will appreciate it very much if you would help push that agenda and conclude it in a friendly, and not adversarial way," he said. "Also, we need to obtain a plan where American Samoa can be at the same table with an equal voice, with sufficient help and resources to manage this local, but nationally dedicated resource."

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional councils established by the Magnusson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by Congress in 1976.

The four designated state/territory officials here for the meeting are: Laura Thielen, Hawai΄i Department of Land & Natural Resources: Paul Bassler, Guam Department of Agriculture; Ignacio Dela Cruz, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) Department of Land & Natural Resources, along with Ufagafa Ray Tulafono, Director of American Samoa Department of Marine & Wildlife Resources.

Four designated federal officials are: Bill Robinson, Pacific Islands Regional Office, National Marine Fisheries Service; Jerry Leinecke, U.S. Fish and Wildlife: Rear Admiral Manson K. Brown, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District; and Bill Gibbons-Fly, U.S. Department of State.

Eight members who are nominated by the governors of Hawai΄i, Guam, American Samoa and CNMI and selected by the Secretary of Commerce are: Lauvao Stephen Haleck, business owner (hotel and gas station) (American Samoa); Taulapapa William Sword recreational fisherman/civil engineer/manager (American Samoa); Manuel Duenas, Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association (Guam); Frederick Duerr, resort and hotel consultant (Hawai΄i); David Itano, pelagic fisheries researcher (Hawai΄i); Sean Martin, Pacific Ocean Producers (Hawaii); Peter Young, environmental consultant (Hawai΄i); and Benigno Sablan, cultural practitioner (CNMI).

The meeting continues today, and the Department of Marine Wildlife Resources will host a fiafia tonight for the visitors who depart tomorrow.

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