Am. Samoa Longline Fleet Want 50-Mile Fishing Ban Lifted

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Association appeals to governor to help industry compete

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Sept. 29, 2014) – The local association representing the longline fishing fleet has again appealed to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to lift the ban so its fleet can be allowed to fish temporarily within American Samoa’s 50-mile zone, where only local alias are allowed at this time.

In a Sept. 24 letter to Lolo, the Tautai-O-Samoa Longline & Fishing Association applauded the governor’s opposition to President Obama’s original Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument expansion plan (which has since been revised - see Friday's story.).

Lolo in his opposition to the expansion, informed Obama in July that the "continued economic viability of our tuna fish canneries is already in jeopardy by the aggressive and predatory investments by China in fisheries development in the Pacific. Cash-starved independent islands of the Pacific are selling fishing permits to Chinese fishing vessels to harvest fish within their exclusive economic zones."

According to the Tautai association, this statement by Lolo "relates more to our local longline fleet than the canneries, as the Chinese fishing fleet competes directly with our very small-sized local longline fleet."

"We all target these very highly migratory species — tuna — which don’t stay in a box, however reducing the fishing grounds severely limits the ability of the fleet to follow schools of fish when they are available," the group said, adding that the Chinese fleet is very heavily subsidized and they influence the market prices with the quantity of fish they sell.

Tautai Association say they are at a disadvantage on every level, and are pleading with the governor and local leaders for consideration in allowing the longliners a moratorium to fish in unused fishing grounds — i.e. the 50 mile-zone around American Samoa's islands — for a set time.

"This will allow the longliners to recuperate, if possible, by fishing in closer waters, as there will be less fuel consumption, which translates to less expenses, allow the boats to follow fish if they move through these closed areas and this will also allow the fishery managers to collect data to better manage our waters," the letter says.

The group explained that they only target the highly migratory species or at least the fish that are passing through territorial waters.

The association called on Lolo to follow the suggestions and facts presented by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council staff.

"If scientists and managers have the data to prove that this is not a good initiative for our islands, then we will follow this; but there is no data that a temporary moratorium will cause any damage to our ocean resources now or in the future," they say. "You do have data of where the local alias are fishing and the safety concerns - on where they fish - related to the distance from shore."

Tautai also reprised some part of Lolo’s statements to Obama to reflect what they face locally. "We implore you Mr. Governor to please NOT prohibit us temporary access to unused fishing waters in the American Samoa Exclusive Economic Zone," the group concluded.

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