Tautai o Samoa continues to push for survival of its fishing fleet
At a meeting of the Tautai O Samoa Longline & Fishing Association this past Wednesday members continued to discuss current conditions that are making it very challenging to continue operations.
“Right now we are in a situation where we need to run instead of just crawling,” said member and spokesperson of the Association Carlos Sanchez.
He said, Gov Lolo Matalasi Moliga needs to have an advisor/ advisors with the knowledge of the fisheries. “In American Samoa, there are a lot of people that have been in this business for many years. Many of these people have the knowledge in these matters,” he said.
Sanchez noted the governor appears not to have any interest in the biggest and only industry in American Samoa. “He might be putting in the effort, but the knowledge is not there,” he said.
At the end of last year, the association announced owners of the local longline fleet had reached a ‘consensus to tie up’ their boats and further agreed to post all fishing vessels for sale as the future for this fishery does not seem imminent. The owners at that time cited a number of reasons for taking such action which includes a decline in the price of albacore tuna, stiff competition from Chinese vessels, which receive a subsidy from their government, and docking space and fees in Pago harbor.
Last month there was a meeting with Gov. Lolo on these issues, and this month, the association in a letter to the federally established Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council requested a “temporary moratorium” or waivers” from regulations governing closure of ocean areas around the islands of American Samoa. They are still awaiting the WPRFMC’s response.
Of the overall longline fisheries situation in the territory, Sanchez said, “Let’s compromise. Let’s work together.”
The American Samoa longline fleet is made up of U.S. flagged vessels operating out of American Samoa that fish within the American Samoa Exclusive Economic Zone under the American Samoa longline limited entry program. The program is administered by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Services.
It is the last remaining U.S. albacore fleet in the United States. Longline vessels home-ported out of American Samoa deliver most, if not all, of their catch to the territory’s two canneries — Starkist Samoa and lSamoa Tuna Processors. The fleet purchases all requirements such as fuel, food, gear and spare parts locally.