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Seeks some of U.S. portion of tuna allocation for territory

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Oct. 5, 2011) - Gov. Togiola Tulafono has asked the U.S. State Department to allow American Samoa to purchase unused apportioned fishing days for U.S. fleets under the U.S. agreement with the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), which governs the management of fisheries in eight countries in the Pacific, an area covering 25% of the world's tuna caught annually.

Speaking on his weekend radio program, Togiola says he made the request during a meeting while in Washington D.C. recently. He said the meeting with the State Department, which covers areas such as fisheries in the region and U.S. vessels home-ported in American Samoa, was a continuation of meetings with the federal agency held in New Zealand last month during the Pacific Island Forum.

Among the fishery issues discussed was the U.S. fisheries agreement that affects the canneries in the territory and the State Department is taking a broader look at all 28 U.S. vessels home-ported in American Samoa, the governor says.

He pointed out that the problem with these 28 vessels is that a majority of them don't come here and these vessels only use the federal law of being home-ported in the territory so they can fish in the region under these fisheries agreements with other countries and the U.S., but they do not contribute to American Samoa's economy or fish for our local canneries.

There is also a U.S. Coast Guard manning exemption for these vessels that claim American Samoa as home port.

Togiola says this is the reason he has asked the State Department to allow American Samoa and its canneries to purchase unused apportioned fishing days for the U.S. under the PNA. He explained that under this agreement, PNA allows a certain number of fishing days for the U.S. fleet to fish in the PNA area and the U.S. divides the number of fishing days among U.S. vessels.

The governor says that the U.S. and PNA countries have yet to reach a new agreement and he has also learned that there are others purchasing fishing days directly from PNA, while American Samoa's home-ported vessels have done nothing at all. At the same time, American Samoa can't do anything unless it's given approval by the State Department.

Togiola says the request to the State Department deals only with vessels home-ported in American Samoa and the State Department has agreed to work with American Samoa on this issue.

The State Department has also asked for help in dealing with South Pacific island nations in current negotiations over a fisheries agreement.

Togiola says there should be conditions that require these vessels home-ported in American Samoa to come to American Samoa to sell their fish to the canneries or transship their fish to other destinations.

He said a lot of money comes into the territory through these vessels that would be helpful to the local economy, adding that a fishing vessel benefits the local economy through purchase of fuel, water and food while in port.

Togiola has called for everyone's support on this matter because it will benefit the entire territory, including the canneries.

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