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Fears surface over rumors of Samoa-China fish talks

A leading fish exporting company has claimed that Samoa is in "secret talks" with China that may threaten the future of the country’s fishery industry.

“I was rather astonished to learn of the existence of negotiations between local Samoa officials and Chinese fishing interests,” says John Luff, Managing Director of Apia Export Fish Packers Ltd, in a letter to the Samoa Observer editor.

“Although there are scant details available to us at this time it was confirmed in phone conversations that there was indeed some initial progress toward allowing foreign licence vessels, in this case Chinese, to operate within Samoa’s territorial waters.”

China already operates 1,300 fishing vessels in the South Pacific, all of them belonging to one company – the state owned Chinese National Fisheries Corporation.

China plans to add another 300 vessels by 2015, according to news reports.

Mr. Luff has posed five questions to authorities about the alleged talks.

These include a challenge to allowing China to use heavily subsidised long line vessels within the country’s EEZ, the Exclusive Economic Zone.

China “heavily” supports its foreign fishing fleet, with the Pew Environment Group identifying $4.1 billion in subsidies.

Only Japan spends more, at $4.6 billion.

Those figures are the latest available but stem from 2003, and could be higher now.

In his letter to the Samoa Observer, Mr. Luff said that local companies cannot compete against that kind of subsidy.

“Why Samoa, with the smallest economic zone (E.E.Z.) in the Pacific would wish to embrace the country or countries with the largest distant water fishing fleets in the world, with obvious expansion objectives, is very difficult to understand.

“The only logical conclusion that could be derived is that there is perhaps a trade off proposed in some alternative area that has little to do with the long-term viability of Samoa’s extremely valuable fish stocks.

“If this is the case, then I believe any such trade off, regardless of perceived short-term gains to Samoa, would be very ill conceived.”

Samoa does not allow foreign fishing vessels in its EEZ apart from American purse seiners, according to sources.



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