Am. Samoa Fishermen Receive Supplies From Government

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Subsidy program tries to promote, encourage bottom fishing

By Jeff Hayner

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Sept. 2, 2014) – Local fishermen and ‘alia owners received a pleasant surprise this past Thursday when they were presented with equipment and supplies from the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR), made available through a subsidy program approved by Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga.

Wes Tuilefano of the DMWR boating division told the Samoa News over a telephone interview that Thursday’s presentation was just one part of the subsidy program, which provided registered boat owners with ropes earlier this year.

According to Tuilefano, the ropes were for ‘alia boat owners and it was their way of promoting and encouraging bottom fishing.

On Thursday, at the DMWR compound, 20 registered boat owners walked away with numerous items including life vests, throw ropes, ring buoys, fire extinguishers, and first aid kits.

In addition, they also received "very expensive" personal locater beacons (EPIRB), valued at $500 a piece.

"The fishermen need the beacons because the US Coast Guard requires it so it’s the perfect item for them," Tuilefano explained. "It is very small but it’ll save your life!"

Altogether, there are a total of 27 registered boaters but only 20 are on ‘very active’ status. The only thing left to be issued under this particular program are the flares (rocket flares, parachute flares, floating smoke signals).

All the items for the fishermen are free of charge under the subsidy program.

"The funding for this program was made possible thanks to approval from the Governor," Tuilefano said. "We here at DMWR were tasked with using the money to help local fishermen and boat owners."

To get a feel of what the fishing community wanted and needed, DMWR personnel conducted a survey earlier this year to hear from local fishermen and boat owners, what they believed were of the utmost priority to them.

Taking possession of the equipment and supplies distributed Thursday were at the top of their wish list and DMWR made it happen for them.

There are certain qualifications that need to be met in order for local boat owners to take advantage of the services offered under the subsidy program.

These include a valid registration for the boat, valid licenses for all fishermen, and having an official record of the catch at the DMWR office for data purposes.

In addition to providing equipment and supplies, the subsidy program also provides fuel at a rate of $1.75 per gallon, but only for ‘alia boat owners who produce the appropriate data.

"When the ‘alia boats go fishing, the crew members need to come in and sit through an interview with our staff so we can collect necessary information and data like the size of their catch and the location," Tuilefano explained. "It’s quite simple. No data - no gas."

Since the fuel subsidy program was activated, Tuilefano said fishermen have been coming in everyday to submit their data and take advantage of the cheap fuel.

But that’s not all. The DMWR staff went further and used the subsidy program to reach out to the fishing community by offering workshops and training in small engine repair for boaters in both Tutuila and the Manu’a Islands earlier this year.

During that time, DMWR Director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga kept reminding the fishermen about the importance of being educated on how to repair engines, "especially when they are out fishing."

She said, "You could be out fishing and the boat can die out. It would be in your best interest to know how to get the boat up and running again so you can make it back safely. This course is very important because the information you get from it could save lives!"

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