U.S. fishing fleets prepare to fight for fishing rights at Fishery meeting

fili@samoanews.com

San Diego-based American Tunaboat Association (ATA) is calling for, among other things, a “level playing field” and the protection of US fishing rights on the high seas at the 13th meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission from Dec. 5- 9 Nadi, Fiji.

Tri Marine International, which has a fishing fleet based in Pago Pago, as well as American Samoa officials have called for more fishing days on the high seas for the US fleet, as fishing restrictions have impacted fish delivery to the two canneries in American Samoa.

Responding to Samoa News questions, ATA Executive Director Brian Hallman says he as well as eight to ten ATA members will be attending the WCPFC meeting.

Asked to name some of the important issues he plans to argue for ATA, Hallman says, “Our main approach will be to ensure that all management proposals are science based.”  He went on to explain that in the past that has not always been the case; and rules should be applied equally and enforced equally for all fishing fleets, so that there is a level playing field for US vessels.

Hallman also confirmed that he would be tackling the issue of fishing on the high seas. “ATA will be doing all it can to protect US interests and rights on the high seas.”

“Some Pacific island states want to further restrict fishing on the high seas for political and economic reasons, and ATA will vehemently resist any such efforts,” he said.

Asked what he hopes to achieve at the meeting in Fiji, Hallman said, “The WCPFC Conservation and Management Resolution, which governs most of the fishing rules that we follow, which is in place for one more year — 2017.”

“I don't anticipate that a new management resolution will be negotiated at the Nadi meeting, but discussions towards the next one may begin,” he said. “An important achievement for ATA would be to have any such discussions directed towards a measure that helps the US fleet continue with a viable fishery.”

Among the many issues on the agenda for discussion at the Fiji meeting are tuna stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, by-catch mitigation, and harvest strategy — including management objectives.

Samoa News understands that ASG is sending a delegation to this year’s meeting but names of the local delegates could not be immediately confirmed.

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