U.S. Coast Guard Touts Samoa As Leader In Fisheries Protection

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Rear Admiral Thomas visits country to discuss Shiprider Agreement

By Sophie Budvietas

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, April 17, 2014) – United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G.) Rear Admiral Cari B. Thomas has touted Samoa as a leader in the fight to protect fisheries.

RDML. Thomas, who is the Commander of the Coast Guard’s District Fourteen, was in Samoa this week to discuss the ongoing Shiprider Agreement with Samoa.

Her area of responsibility spans over 12.2 million square miles and includes the Hawaiian islands, Guam, American Samoa and activities in Saipan, Singapore and Japan.

This encompasses a region nearly three times the size of the continental United States.

The Shiprider Agreement was signed by the United States and Samoa two years ago and enables Samoa law enforcement officers to help enforce maritime laws, including those pertaining to fisheries, while aboard U.S.C.G. ships. RDML.

[PIR editor’s note: In addition to the Shiprider Agreement, the Samoa Observer reported that "port security cooperation in preparation for S.I.D.S. was high on the agenda."]

Thomas said when the U.S.C.G. crosses into Samoan waters, the local official on board assists them in enforcing the fisheries laws within Samoa’s Exclusive Economic Zone (E.E.Z.).

According to the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea an economic zone (EEZ) is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

"Samoans have been leaders in wanting to preserve the environment and wanting to preserve their fisheries with the Australian patrol boat," said RDML. Thomas.

"They have been good stewards and we’ll continue to try and support Samoan efforts to do that.

"We are grateful that they agreed to have this Shiprider Agreement and we will bring our Coastguard resources to help in that.

"We have a ship from Honolulu who will be transiting through here in a couple of months with a Samoan Shiprider in an effort to continue on the fisheries enforcement."

RDML. Thomas said the preservation of fisheries regionally was very important to the United States.

"The United States has the same cooperative relationship with nine nations," she said.

"It is one of my efforts to attempt to try and do the right conservancy of the environment so that we don’t over fish and create a problem for the future."

She did say, however, that in an effort to enforce these laws did come with its challenges.

"Fish do not respect boundaries they tend to migrate wherever it is nature says that they should," she said.

"(Also) there are many countries whose fishing fleets are growing exponentially which is worrisome to me, so we are working very hard to continue to make sure that these countries E.E.Z.s aren’t overfished.

"I am working the other countries whose fishing fleets are growing to try and help them be more responsible flag states, so that they know that it is important for them to not overfish."

RDML. Thomas said the United States went through the same kind of growth about 30 years ago in which her country was in danger of overfishing many of our own fishing grounds.

"It’s an uncomfortable tug of war that goes on between the fisher man and the conservationists," she said.

"Because ultimately food is an important commodity for the Pacific and we want to have sustainable fisheries for the long haul, and if we overfish we are going to be in a problem there."

"So the U.S. Coast Guard has experience and our own lessons in preserving our own fisheries that we are able to bring to the region."

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