Family charging to get to Fagatele Bay trail
Visitors who wanted to take in the beauty and enjoy a relaxing swim at Fagatele Bay during the Labor Day weekend were shocked to find out they had to pay a fee in order to get there.
A Samoa News employee and her children who headed out to Fagatele Bay to spend the afternoon there first came upon a locked iron gate that leads to the trail to Fagatele Bay. Our employee was then approached by a woman and told she needed to pay a fee in order to cross over to the trail; and if she planned to park her vehicle there (gate area), it would cost her extra. The price quoted was $5 to open the gate to get to the trail and $5 to park.
Of interest, there were tourists there or people, who are not Samoans, and according to our employee they were quoted a higher price for the same service.
The Samoa News employee said an argument then ensued between one of the visitors and the person who was collecting the "crossing" fees, who insisted it was their family right to charge the fees.
A Samoa News source close to the issue said the fees being imposed on Fagatele Bay visitors is not a new thing, and it has been the topic of ongoing discussions for "a long time now,” and as a matter of fact, the issue has made its way all the way up to the NMSAS superintendent.
Samoa News understands that talks between the Office of Samoan Affairs, officials from the National Marine Sanctuaries of American Samoa, and the leading matai of the family who claims to own the land that people must cross in order to get to Fagatele Bay, are ongoing. Additionally, the leading matai and an NMSAS representative are scheduled to discuss the issue sometime later this week.
According to a Samoa News source, the NMSAS "has absolutely no jurisdiction over people's lands" and therefore, "they can do whatever they want without our permission or approval." The land in question is located directly in the path of the trail that leads to Fagatele Bay.
The same source says they wish there was a way to access Fagatele Bay through ocean via a small boat but the easiest way to get there is by crossing communal land.
Another point of interest in the issue is the family who owns the land and are charging people to access Fagatele Bay, during the Scoping and Management Plan Review, the same family was adamant that Fagatele Bay be designated as a 'no-take' zone, meaning absolutely nothing can be extracted from there, including invertebrates, corals, or fish.
This has made Fagatele Bay the only one of the six underwater gems in the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (NMSAS) system to be a 'no-take' zone. Fishing is permitted in the other five sites which include Fagalua/Fogama’a (the next bay east of Fagatele) on Tutuila Island, Aunu’u, Ta’u and Swains islands, and the marine protected area of Rose Atoll (which is known to the Manu’a natives as Muliāva) including nearby Vailulu’u Seamount.
For the Rose Atoll, with new regulations in place, the area 0-12 miles out is a 'no-take' zone, which has been designated as a National Marine Refuge. However, fishing is permitted 12-50 miles out, but this requires a permit from the National Marine Fisheries. Absolutely no commercial fishing is allowed.
"The NMSAS does not forbid people to fish and it's not about what you fish, but how you fish," said an NMSAS representative. "This is all for the protection of our coral reefs."
With regards to Fagatele Bay, the area is being looked at as a nursery so more reproduction of fish can occur and a spillover will result in people being able to fish from the outside.