Tension Between American Samoa Government, Longliners Apparent At Public Forum

Fishing boat owner claims Lolo administration refers to U.S. flagged vessels as ‘foreign’

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, June 22, 2016) – Local businessman and owner of longline vessels, Carlos Sanchez says the current Administration considers locally based US flagged longliners, owned by American Samoans, as “foreign flagged” vessels.

On the other hand, Commerce Department official Tony Langkilde says the Large Vessels Protected Area (LVPA) in waters of American Samoa is very important to the territory for the continued development of local fishermen.

Sanchez and Langkilde made public comments last Thursday afternoon during a “research sharing event”, hosted by Claremont Graduate University associate professor of history, Dr. JoAnna Poblete, who’s conducting a study on the canneries and other fishery issues regarding ocean-use policy in American Samoa.

After providing a summary of the four chapters in the book project  — including a chapter on longliners and alia — those in attendance were given a chance to provide comments or ask questions.

Sanchez asked that Poblete “not refer to us as American Samoa longliners” in her book. “We are American flagged longliners that fish in federal waters of the United States and operate out of Pago Pago to deliver the fish to the canneries,” he explained.

“We were the American Samoa longliners in the last Administration, [but] this [current] administration call us the foreign longliners. So if the United States is a foreign flag, we are foreign,” he said. “The longliners of American Samoa are the alias.”

The last administration referred to by Sanchez is the Togiola Administration, while the current one is under the leadership of Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who was among local political officials opposed to the federal government’s decision to reduce from 50 to 12 miles of the LVPA, which has been reserved for local alia since 2002.

At last month’s meeting of the Joint American Samoa Regional Ecosystem Advisory Committee (REAC) and American Samoa Advisory Panel meeting, Sanchez says that local longliner owners are in agreement that they want the fleet to no longer be referred to as the American Samoa Longline Fleet, but rather the US Federal Longline Fleet operating in US protected waters of American Samoa.

Sanchez said the local government has chosen to represent the fishery as their own when it suits them at regional and international meetings, but they choose not to support them in action at home.

At last Thursday’s “research sharing event” Langkilde, who works on fishery development, expressed appreciation of Poblete’s work on the book project and noted that the alia initiative was a development that came out of neighboring Samoa.

He said the current alia is obsolete and it’s the vision of the current administration to move forward to a “super alia” which “can go further out in the ocean, stay out there and come back with a good catch ... and develop it from that stand point.”

Regarding the LVPA issue, he said, “That’s very important to us because we have to make sure that we can continue to develop our local fishermen and we have to get into vessels where it’s safe and bring in a good catch of fish and be able to economically sustain themselves as well as improve the fishing economy.”

“Our biggest problem is capital...it’s been like that,” he said and noted that there is a need to “acquire enough capital to develop local fishery” in order for it to be sustainable. Additionally, there’s “so many federal policies that affect and impact our development.”

Commerce director Keniseli Lafaele also commended Poblete for her study and research saying that the book — once finalized and published — will be another resource.

In her comments, Christinna Lutu-Sanchez, president of the locally based Tautai o Samoa Longline and Fishing Association, points to Chapter One of the book which covers alia fishing and longline fishing, saying that “when you’re talking about alia fishing versus longlining, it’s not really one versus the other because longlining is also done on alia boats.”

And “more importantly than the LVPA is the development of the [federal] American Samoa longline limit entry program, which is how we’re able to box in and try to preserve the areas for local development,” she said. “Alia owners who graduated to longliners are American Samoans. And you have to have a [federal] longline permit to fish in these waters.”

One of the attendees asked if the book will include the American Samoa Government’s lawsuit against certain federal government agencies and officials over the reduction of the LVPA. Poblete replied she has not looked into this matter but the LVPA suit is an ongoing issue and she is looking at finishing the book by the end of this year.

The Samoa News
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