Faipule told to demand answers during WPFMC meeting
Due to the many concerns from members of the House Agriculture, Marine & Wildlife and Forestry Committee, on the issues of Federal regulations that affect fisheries in American Samoa, the director of the Department of Marine Wildlife Resource, Va’amua Henry Sesepasara, asked House members to make sure they voice all questions and frustrations to members of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (WPFMC) when their annual conference convenes next week.
Va’amua and Christine Lutu-Sanchez, who is president of the Tautai Longline Fishing Association and also one of the two American Samoa representatives on the WPFMC, appeared before the Committee last Friday, to discuss issues pertaining to fishing in American Samoa, and how federal regulations affect fishing in the territory.
However, one of the main issues discussed during the hearing, had to do with money that American Samoa fishing boats are paying for fishing licenses, and money that fishing boats pay in fines if they are caught fishing illegally inside the territory’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Rep. Vesi Talalelei Fautanu Jr. believes all these monies should come straight to American Samoa, instead of going to federal agencies that work together to enforce regulations on the seas; and other reps reminded Va’amua that all new revenues must be sent to the Fono for appropriation before DMWR can use them.
Va’amua confirmed that all monies from fishing vessel fines and licenses go straight to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — and American Samoa through DMWR must send them a proposal to notify them what project they want to use the funds on, before the territory can access the funds.
For example, a longliner fishing vessel was fined $48,000 by NOAA last year, for fishing in the American Samoa EEZ — and NOAA granted approval of a proposal from Va’amua’s office to use the $48,000 to fund the repair of 'alia fishing boats for people in Manu’a.
Vaamua returned from Manu’a two weeks ago — where he met with all 'alia fishing boat owners and discussed the new project so that fishing boats will be repaired under federal guidelines and regulations, per NOAA’s requirements.
Rep. Lavea Fatulegae’e Mauga would like to know if there’s a share for the American Samoa Government from the $6.3 million settlement between the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and StarKist Samoa for violations related to the discharge of wastewater in Pago Pago Harbor.
Lavea said our land and ocean are precious resources and American Samoa should stand up to the dictates of the federal government on the use of these resources. He acknowledged the Governor’s efforts with regards to lifting restrictions on fishing grounds in the region.
Va’amua, however, explained that American Samoa is not receiving anything directly from the settlement between the federal government and StarKist, because American Samoa is not part of the federal pollution act the cannery violated.
The director said Gov. Lolo M. Moliga has instructed him to work together with the governor’s attorney, Alema Leota, and Congresswoman Aumua Amata, to submit an amendment of the law to Congress, to make sure the law includes the area where the incident occurred.
According to Va’amua’s testimony, the federal government will divvy the $6.3 million with all agencies that work to protect the ocean, including Sanctuary Foundation — they are going to receive $600,000.
Va’amua said American Samoa could send a request through the Sanctuary Foundation, if they want any portion of the $600,000 to fund any project for our local sanctuary.
He said his department is currently putting together a proposal to send to the Foundation, requesting funding to help remove the foreign longline fishing vessel that was grounded off Coconut Point in Nuuuli almost two years ago.
House Vice Speaker Fetui Fetu Jr. asked if there is any company showing interest in pulling the fishing vessel away from the reef, Va’amua said his department received two offers from two companies. An off-island company from the United States offered $3.8 million, and a local company offered $1.75 million.
Va’amua told representatives to make an effort to attend the WPFMC's 171st annual meeting, so they can hear more about fishing issues in the Pacific and American Samoa.
Samoa News notes that the most recent federal pollution settlement that benefitted American Samoa’s National Marine sanctuaries was a half-a-million-dollars of the $2.4 million total monetary judgment a federal judge imposed against New Zealand based Sanford Ltd., owner of the fishing vessel San Nikunau that illegally discharged oil waste into the ocean over a period of years and lied to the U.S. Coast Guard about their activities.
In this case, the award to American Samoa was outlined in court documents — which noted that $500,000 was to be designated as community service payable to the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation for the benefit of marine sanctuaries in and around American Samoa.