Amended Am. Samoa Marine Conservation Plan Approved

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Plan supports fisheries development, research, management

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, April 9, 2015) – American Samoa’s recently amended and approved Marine Conservation Plan (MCP) identifies priorities for fishery development, such as construction of new alia boats; it also supports and recognizes scientific research as well as traditional knowledge of fishing for effective fisheries management.

The Plan does not provide estimated costs for any of the projects, nor possible funding sources.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, in a Mar.16 letter, submitted to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Services the territory’s amended MCP, and yesterday the federal agency announced in a public notice its approval of the Plan, which is effective Apr. 1, 2015 through Mar. 31, 2018.

The governor said the amended Plan comprises objectives towards maximizing sustainable fisheries which will benefit the people of American Samoa. Additionally, it supports and recognizes scientific research and traditional knowledge as important factors towards an informed community for effective fisheries management.

He noted that the amendments in the latest MCP comprise identified general priorities for fisheries development and management in the territory. Additionally, the Plan and its amendments were drafted in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, and are consistent with the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

The Plan contains six conservation and management objectives, which include a list of prioritized projects. Each project has an evaluative criterion that measures how it addresses the objective.

For example, under Objective 1 — to maximize social and economic benefits through sustainable fisheries development — one of the six projects includes ‘development of fishing technologies and boat design and construction’ and this project is labeled "high" priority.

This project calls for constructing new vessels to replace the aging alia fleet, and these boats will be able to increase fishing operations equipped with bottom-fishing, trolling, and longline gear, will be capable of storing ice, and fitted with various fishing and navigation technologies to improve efficiency and safety at sea. (see yesterday’s edition regarding these "super alia".)

Another ‘high’ priority project for Objective 1 calls for the enhancement of fishing infrastructure, e.g. docks, ramps, moorings, ice machines, fish storage and processing facilities. It says this will provide improvement and support to benefit fishermen.

Other ‘high’ priority projects include the promotion of sport fishing tournaments in the territory to increase American Samoa’s profile as a fishing destination, and recognizing fishing as part of the fa’asamoa or Samoan way of life.

Another Objective in the MCP, recognizes the importance of island culture and traditional fishing in managing fishery resources and fosters opportunities for participation. There are two ‘high’ priority projects in this category.

One of them calls for promoting traditional fishing practices, in recognition and preservation of cultural practices and traditional knowledge as part of fisheries management.

The second project is supporting ‘palolo’ and ‘atule’ surveys, which will document traditional fishing and cultural practices, moving toward an integrated Territorial creel survey program.

The MCP points out that for approximately three thousand years, the Samoans have relied on the ocean for their sustenance, with a culture that revolves around fishing. Furthermore, fishing activities constitute an integral part of the 'fa'asamoa' or the Samoan culture, and fisheries resources are used in cultural ceremonies.

"For instance, ceremonies on chiefly position entitlements use fish during these cultural events. Atule' fishing is a community activity tinged with legends and the distribution of the catch follows traditional protocols," it says.

It also emphasizes that fisheries development "is of great importance to the food security and economic stability of the territory."

Other Objectives listed in the MCP include:

More specific details of the territory’s amended MCP and other information is publicly available at the federal government portal: www.regulations.gov

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