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High seas fishing and FAD management to be raised during WCPFC meeting

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Fishing on high seas and fish aggregating devices (FAD) management are among the concerns and issues for the US-based American Tuna Association (ATA) that are expected to be shared at this week’s 15th Meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission which kicked off Dec. 9th and runs through Dec. 14 at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, ATA executive director Brian Hallman confirmed over the weekend of being in Honolulu for the annual WCPFC meeting along with about 10 other US vessel owners and strong delegations from the US and American Samoa.

Asked about some of the issues ATA will raise or address at the meeting, Hallman responded that there “are many issues of concern and interest to ATA, but the main ones are probably high seas fishing and FAD management.”

Samoa News notes that ATA, along with American Samoa leaders, and US purse seiners have continued to urge the federal government for less restrictions on high seas fishing, because of its impact on the fish delivery to StarKist Samoa, which from time to time has shutdown production for a certain period of time due to fish supply shortages.

Additionally, the US government has, for several years, argued that the WPFC’s purse seine effort limits — for high seas and US EEZ — “are having a disproportionate burden on the American Samoa economy, particularly fish processing facilities like the one tuna cannery in operation.”

Samoa News inquired about what ATA hopes to achieve at the WCPFC meeting for the US fleet, including those that serve American Samoa’s cannery.

“ATA's hope is that all regulatory measures are based on scientific recommendations, and are implemented in such a way as to ensure a level playing field, where the enforcement of all WCPFC regulations is done equally with respect to the fleets of all countries,” Hallman said via email from Honolulu.

He pointed out, “It should be kept in mind that all of the tropical tuna stocks fished by purse seine vessels are in a healthy condition — none are overfished and overfishing is not occurring on any of them.”

Members of ATA, which is among the many accredited global groups attending the WCPFC, are owners of US flagged vessels that use purse seine nets to fish commercially for tuna.

The US government has called on the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission for informed deliberation on fisheries issues impacting the US, especially a provision approved at last year’s WCPFC meeting, to help American Samoa’s economy, which depends on the tuna and fishing industry. (See yesterday’s Samoa News edition for details)

The American Samoa delegation at the WCPFC meeting is headed by Marine and Wildlife Department director Va’amua Henry Sesepasara, along with the American Samoa Fisheries Task Force chairman and legal counsel to the task force, according to the Governor’s Office.