American Samoa Governor Pleased With Tuna Treaty Resolution

Local cannery can now focus on creating regional hub: Lolo

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, June 29, 2016) – With a new six-year South Pacific Tuna Treaty agreement reached, Tri Marine International can now focus on making “American Samoa a regional tuna hub”, which is a commitment the Washington state-based company made more than three years ago when it first entered the local market with a US purse seiner fleet and later, as the owner of Samoa Tuna Processors cannery.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga is pleased with the new long term agreement, which still requires approval of both the governments of the United States and the 16 Pacific Island countries party to the agreement. The governor says the administration also continues to work with neighboring Pacific islands on fishery issues.

The new Treaty agreement was reached at the end of last week’s meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, where Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo and the governor’s fishery representative Va’amua Henry Sesepasara represented American Samoa with the US delegation.


Tri Marine said in a statement yesterday that the agreement means US flagged purse seiners operating in the Western and Central Pacific will have the opportunity to purchase fishing days in the exclusive economic zones of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) as well as the other Pacific Island countries that are parties to the Treaty.

(The eight-member PNA island countries — which include Tuvalu, Kiribati and Solomon Islands — control the world’s largest sustainable tuna fishery, according to PNA’s website.)

During the Treaty meeting, Tri Marine said, both the US and the Pacific Island parties agreed that the Treaty was outdated and did not meet the needs of either the Pacific Island resource owners or the fishing boat owners.

The US fleet of up to 40 purse seiners, including those based in American Samoa, will have the option of buying multilateral days, participating in auctions for pooled days or entering into agreements to purchase bilateral days, it says.

Additionally, the American Samoa boats that deliver their catches to the canneries in American Samoa will be looking for fishing agreements that allow them to fish in the waters that are closest to their homeport of Pago Pago.

Tri Marine points out that Tokelau, Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the high seas areas are therefore most important to these boats.

“We have been anticipating a change in how the US purse seiners would manage access to the tuna fishing grounds in the Western and Central Pacific for several years,” said Joe Hamby, chief operation officer for Tri Marine. “Now that the future of the Treaty has been resolved, we will be able to focus on building a coalition of fishing companies and resource owners committed to supporting American Samoa as a regional tuna processing hub.”


Lolo said he is awaiting a report of the meeting from Talauega and Va’amua. However, he is very pleased that a new six-year agreement has been reached, based on information he has received so far.

“Based on the briefing I have received, the new Treaty is very sound and I’m confident that the US government has taken seriously our concerns voiced with them previously about the impact on our canneries with these treaties, including the Tuna Treaty,” Lolo told Samoa News yesterday.

He also says that the administration is gaining knowledge and information about the Tuna treaty as well as other treaties in which the federal government is involved. “And we’ve been sending our people to these conferences and meetings to learn more and to work with the federal government, so they are fully aware of the impact to our canneries on the decisions they make,” he said.

The Treaty, as well as federal policies impacting our fishery and the local canneries were among the issues the governor and some of his cabinet directors pursued diligently with federal officials while in Washington D.C. for meetings in February.

Congresswoman Aumua Amata has done the same from her side on Capitol Hill and Samoa News understands that the Congresswoman was briefed over the weekend on the outcome of the Treaty negotiations and will be issuing an official statement soon.

Regarding fisheries in our region, Lolo told Samoa News another effort that the Administration continues to work on is developing closer relationship with neighboring islands such as Samoa, Tokelau, and Tuvalu.

“We are committed to closer ties with our Pacific neighbors so they can not only benefit from fishery agreements that involve the US but also working with island neighbors on ways we can all benefit as a Pacific region.”

For example, locally based vessels will be able to fish in the EEZs of these islands.

“So we are reviewing all of the options available as part of our close relationship with our Pacific neighbors,” said Lolo, who met with the new leadership of the Tokelau government while in Apia earlier this month.

Tokelau and American Samoa have a Memorandum of Understanding, signed more than a year ago, that calls for closer working relationships in the areas of fisheries and trade. Tokelau also has a separate MOU signed in December 2014 with Tri Marine.

The Samoa News
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