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100 extra fishing days secured for Am Samoa at fisheries meet

Utulei, AMERICAN SAMOA —The American Samoa delegation to the 14th annual Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Manila returned to the territory after working with the United States delegation to successfully secure 100 extra high seas fishing days for American Samoa. The American Samoa Fisheries Task Force made the announcement in a press release issued Friday.

Led by the head of delegation Director of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) Vaamua Henry Sesepasara and Chairman of the American Samoa Fisheries Task Force, Solip Hong, the American Samoa Delegation included COO Joe Hamby from Trimarine, Toetasi Archie Soliai from Starkist, Taulapapa William Sword from Pacific Energy, and Tepora Lavatai and Domingo Ochavillo of DMWR.  The American Samoa delegation worked closely with the United States delegation led by Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of International Fisheries Sam Rauch, which included private sector parties, non-­‐governmental organizations, and representatives from the US State Department and National Office Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The WCPFC is a regional fisheries management organization. Members and participating territories of the WCPFC work together to manage highly migratory fish stock and to address problems such as overfishing and unregulated fishing. They do so by passing measures that are legally binding on member states and territories. The United States is a full member of the WCPFC and American Samoa is a participating territory. Because American Samoa is a territory of the United States, the United States makes final decisions on behalf of American Samoa and through the Magnusson Stevens Act it institutes WCPFC measures.      

The 14th annual WCPFC meeting took place in Manila from December 3rd  to the 7th.  The

biggest unresolved issue coming into this meeting was finalizing a new 3 year tropical tuna measure that would set control measures for tuna fishing in the treaty area. Each day negotiations lasted all day including a grueling 3 a.m. finish on the final day. After a marathon last day, Commission members agreed to a new 3 year tuna measure and, among other things, recognized the plight of American Samoa’s tuna industry and passed a measure granting 100 extra high seas days to the United States for American Samoa as well as reducing the closures on Fish Aggregation Devices (FAD), which were closed all year in 2017.   

 “It was a team effort”, says delegation member Solip Hong. “I really can’t say enough about Sam Rauch and his placing of American Samoa at the forefront. Our American Samoa delegation made sure to press upon the Pacific Island parties the dire situation of our tuna industry, but because the U.S. delegation has final say as to what statements and deals are made on behalf of American Samoa, it was really in the hands of Mr. Rauch to make sure that we saw relief. Thank God for the hard work Sam put forth and a big fa’amalo to the awesome support from the US delegation.”

In plenary sessions and in breakout sessions, Mr. Hong delivered statements to members of the commission educating them on the frightful state of the tuna industry in American Samoa and the need for relief by granting extra fishing days to the territory.

 “We have really worked hard at these meetings to impress upon the Pacific Island countries that we are like them”, says Director Sesepasara. While we are a part of the United States, the fact is that our economy, like many pacific island countries, is dependent on the tuna industry. It seems that in this meeting we finally broke through”

Commenting on the outcome of the meeting Governor Moliga stated, “A job well done to our American Samoa and US delegations. We have really pushed hard for our involvement in these meetings.  I am very pleased that our voice is being heard and corrective actions taken.”