Am. Samoa Representatives Set To Attend Fisheries Meeting

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Officials hope leaders heed call to protect Pacific fishing resources

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Dec. 3, 2013) – The American Samoa government’s (ASG) two-member delegation to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Australia are to impress on Pacific leaders they must be vigilant in the protection of economic development opportunities in the region, as China is becoming aggressive in its fisheries development, according to Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, the governor’s executive assistant.

The 10th meeting of the commission is being held Dec. 2-6 in Cairns, Australia. Port Administration director Dr. Claire Tuia Poumele and Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele represent the local government.

Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga was supposed to be part of the delegation but given that she had previous obligations she didn't travel, said Iulogologo, adding that travel costs are borne by the Western Pacific Fisheries Council.

"This particular meeting is geared more towards port security and impact of the ports on advancing the respective countries fisheries development agenda," said Iulogologo responding to Samoa News questions.

He said the Council "has been very supportive of our local fisheries development projects especially the economic development fisheries projects on Manu'a."

He also said Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has been briefed on the "aggressive overtures being made by China in fisheries development in the Pacific, wherein China is subsidizing the construction of fishing vessels as well as fuel for these vessels."

"The catches from these vessels are destined for China thus severely impacting our Fisheries Industry by eroding the competitive advantage of our two canneries, StarKist Samoa and Tri Marine International," he said.

Asked what message the American Samoa delegation is taking with them to the meeting, Iuloglogo said, the "message sent through our delegation is to impress on the Pacific Island leaders to be vigilant in the protection and preservation of economic development opportunities of the Islands inherent in the fish stock within their respective Exclusive Economic Zones."

"China is attempting to purchase fishing rights from the island nations to fish within their EEZs, with the fish shipped to China for processing," he said. "Clearly, this effectively destroys our fisheries industry."

"With the cost of doing business for our canneries being cost prohibitive due predominantly to the federal [mandated] minimum wage, the China initiative significantly jeopardizes the future of our two economic assets," said Iulogologo.

Meanwhile, the U.S. based Pew Charitable Trust is calling on participants at the meeting to agree to tighter controls on bigeye catches.

Radio New Zealand International quotes Amanda Nickson, Director of global tuna conservation for Pew, as saying there is no excuse for decisions that allow overfishing to continue.

"It’s of grave concern to us that those negotiations have immediately been taken into a small working group that is allowing only one observer — who is not allowed to speak and not allowed to report back," she said. "So essentially they have become fairly closed door negotiations and lacking in the transparency that we would expect out of a body like this."

Nickson says a consensus must be reached during the decision making process and says political will is a driving factor for all participating countries in reaching an agreement on tuna management.

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