NOAA proposal: No total fishing ban says Gov
Gov. Togiola Tulafono has urged members of the community to read in full detail the proposal by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to expand the current Fagatele Marine Sanctuary to include five additional sites, saying that there is no recommendation to completely ban fishing grounds under the proposal.
Speaking on his weekly radio program, Togiola says he has heard a lot of discussion about the NOAA proposal and it appears many in the community have not read the report in detail, nor have they read the recommendations.
Currently, NOAA is gathering public comments on the proposal, which would add Larsens Bay, waters around Swains Island and Muliava (also known as Rose Atoll) and some of the waters around Aunu'u and Tau islands to the sanctuary.
These reports and recommendations were based on information gathered some four years ago, during public scoping meetings, he said.
According to the governor, some of the comments objecting to the proposal came from recreational fishermen, adding that there are two big issues pertaining to these objections.
He said one is that the people of Manu'a are opposed to the closure of waters around Rose Atoll and people need to understand that the reason for the proposed closure, "is to provide a sanctuary for fish to breed... and to prevent the disturbance to the coral animals and breeding within that area so that we can see the impact around the fringes."
"Because the fact of the matter is.. the fish that go into this area do come out of the area and the large pelagic fish that breed and traverse the Pacific... never stay forever inside the 50-mile zone that is proposed [by NOAA]," he points out. "The purpose for the conservation is so that the fisheries just outside will be enhanced."
"And you all know, that in the ‘fa'asao program' (conservation program) around the villages, the longer you keep it from being fished, the bigger the fish and the more abundance of fish," he said, adding that people from villages under these fa'asao programs have affirmed the abundance of fish, when there is long term conservation.
He said villages are also saying that they have found some fish, which were not there for a while, have returned, which is great news for the conservation program as well as the villagers.
The other objection, is the proposal for the island-village of Aunu'u, said Togiola, who explained that the proposed area for the sanctuary "is a long strip from the coral reefs in front of Utumea and Alao [villages] and stretching out to the eastern side of Aunu'u, is to be set aside as an area to study the impact of fisheries outside and what happens if you keep the areas from being fished out and allowing a zone for fish to go in there to breed."
"And that's the whole reason for it. It's not because we do not want you to fish. You can fish around the fringes - there is no restriction. But allow an area to study the impacts of what we do as people," he said.
According to NOAA, the Aunu'u unit would be divided into two zones: a Multiple Use Zone, where limited fishing would be allowed, and a Research Zone, where all consumptive uses would be prohibited to provide a control area as a mechanism for research activities.
"I urge all of you to please read the [NOAA] report. I know you are all reacting to what is being published, but the way I read the objections and the comments that are floating into this, it occurs to me, you have not read the report," said Togiola.
The governor says people are reacting to what others are saying about too many restrictions being proposed, but "anything we can do in the name of conservation" is very important.
"What little the federal government programs and American Samoa departments are trying to do in the name of conservation is to ensure these resources will last a long time into the future," he said.
Samoa News notes that comments against the sanctuary expansion proposal have been focused on the process and not the plans in themselves.