American Samoa Key To Combatting ‘Illegal, Unreported, And Unregulated’ Fishing

Territory part of international agreement fighting IUU

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, August 17, 2016) – With the United States a signatory to an international agreement to combat IUU — illegal, unreported, and unregulated — fishing, American Samoa, home to two canneries and many fishing vessels, is now part of the agreement, which went into force on June 5 this year.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Port State Measures Agreement does not solely focus on IUU fishing vessels, but also requires action against vessels that engage in supportive activities such as refueling or transshipping fish from IUU fishing vessels at sea.

Adopted in 2009 by the UN Fish and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Agreement identifies measures to block the entry from ports of IUU-caught fish into national and international markets.

For the US, the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement (NOAA-OLE) is charged with enforcing the Agreement, which according to the federal agency, applies to foreign flagged fishing vessels carrying fish that have not been previously landed in a port.

Under other U.S. law (Nicholson Act), foreign flagged vessels cannot land these fish/fish products in U.S. ports, with the exception of ports within U.S. territories. Because of this, the most significant impact will be seen in the US territories of American Samoa and Guam.

“The... Agreement is the most significant legislation passed in nearly 40 years and American Samoa is at the center of this effort,” NOAA-OLE special agent Murray Bauer told Samoa News yesterday.

Bauer, who is with the agency’s American Samoa Field Office, said a study by the Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency estimated that illegal fishing in the Pacific results in a loss of approximately US$616.11 million.

“This does not include losses up and down the supply chain,” he explained. “Once illegal catch is landed in ports, the catch is co-mingled with legal catch, prior to entering global commerce and markets, making it virtually impossible to identify its illicit nature.”

He said IUU vessels not only exploit the fisheries, but fishing activities can damage fragile marine ecosystems, coral reefs, and endanger protected species. He emphasized that the “U.S. fleet is one of the most regulated fleets in the world”, which mitigates their effects on the marine environment and vulnerable species and ensures long-term sustainable fish stocks.

“However, IUU fishing is an economic driven activity and IUU fishers have no incentives to comply with these conservation measures since it reduces their efficiency and profit,” he said yesterday adding that the agreement’s goal is to make it more difficult and costly for IUU vessels and support vessels to continue to engage in illegal fishing by eliminating opportunities to offload catch and receive port services.

“This also helps ensure an equal playing field to U.S. vessels protecting - American Samoa fleet - from unfair competition and ensuring consumer confidence in our canneries products by keeping illegal product out of the market,” he said.

As to which other entities are involved with enforcement, Bauer said NOAA works with the US Coast Guard and Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) Enforcement branch.

He explained that DMWR officers are deputized under a Cooperative Enforcement Program with NOAA, which grants them the authority to enforce federal fisheries laws and regulations. Additionally, the agreement enhances communication and information sharing among U.S. agencies and particularly with foreign fishery enforcement agencies worldwide.

During the week of August 1, Bauer said NOAA-OLE provided training to DMWR officers on enforcing the Agreement, which sets the global standard by which inspections would be conducted and documented.

“This program, which was refined here, will now be taught to State enforcement partners throughout the United States and during international training opportunities in other countries,” he said proudly.

Special agent Todd Dubois, assistant director of operations for NOAA-OLE, said in a recently news release from the agency, that DMWR officers that participated in the workshop about the Agreement were very receptive to the implementation training.

“There were numerous discussions that highlighted the importance of information sharing, collaborative enforcement efforts and thorough vessel inspections to further promote [the Agreement] compliance and combat IUU fishing,” he said.

Additionally, there were discussions that “helped NOAA enforcement personnel to better understand the intricacies of remote ports such as Pago Pago; things that we wouldn’t otherwise have knowledge about or experience with in most of our continental U.S. locations.”

“This has helped us further develop our training modules for capacity building sessions with international partners,” he added.

The Samoa News
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