US flagged fishing vessel official says “only salvation” is support and safety from US gov’t
A US flagged fishing vessel official said the US tuna fleet needs access to fishing grounds closest to American Samoa and called on the US government to help save them, as they are “under siege” by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission.
“We have gotten beaten and taken advantage by these groups and need the support and safety that only our government can give us,” said Frank Barron, who delivered Wednesday a stunning statement to the Council from Larry Da Rosa, a traditional mariner and fleet manager based in San Diego, CA.
The PNA vessel-day-scheme (VDS) “is a hell of a scheme indeed” and they “control the area of fishing and the cost of admission,” he said. “We have no recourse — either pay through the nose or tie up our vessels.”
According to Barron, the “only salvation” is to allow the US flagged tuna fleet to fish in the high seas and US waters of the Pacific Remote Island Areas of Jarvis Island, Howland and Baker Islands and Kingman Reef and international waters of the high seas.
He said US island EEZs and the high seas “are the only refuge from the domination of PNA in the Western Pacific” and it’s the “only place where we can fish without paying the ‘highest’ fishing fees ‘in the world’.”
Barron informed the Council the issue is that the entire US fleet “is hurting. We all need the protection from our US government against the PNA. All of the US fleet needs access to the prime fishing grounds closest to American Samoa.”
He noted a “ray of hope” for the fleet, through federal legislation that may remove what he calls “senseless Monuments” designations; but what’s needed beyond that is further legislation either attached to the Tuna Treaty, or through America Samoa becoming a Small Island Development State (SIDS), or the possibility of a written proclamation signed by the US Secretary of Commerce.
He suggested that any proposed legislation must be for all US flagged vessels and it can be done by writing the proposed law in a way that “all US flagged vessels delivering to a US port — American Samoa, Hawai’i, Guam — in the Central and Western Pacific be allowed to fish in the Pacific Remote Island areas and the high seas.”
Barron informed the Council that when the federal Magnusson Act was written 30-40 years ago, the Pacific Remote Island Areas “were not even on their minds” as it was written to protect the US costal fisheries, “not tuna half way around the world”.
“I know it can be done if the right people correctly understand the issue,” he said, and pleaded with the Council, whose members include US fishery officials, to help the fleet.
“Simply put — the entire US tuna fleet needs protection from foreign nations that ultimately want us to go broke, and then buy our vessels for 10 cents on the dollar,” he said. “They have a plan to do so, and have already implemented the plan, it is called the vessel-day-scheme.”
Barron is asking the Council to allow all US flagged vessels the protection of fishing in the high seas “and our own waters and not depend on foreign EEZs.”
Council executive director Seuta’atia Kitty Simonds said this was a “great statement” by DeRosa “...just zeroing in on the PNA”. She recalled a bridging session recently in Honolulu where PNA called for a 40% reduction in the Hawai’i longline quota.
Taotasi Archie Soliai, one of the three American Samoa members on the Council, echoed Simonds appreciation of the statement. Taotasi, who is also an official with StarKist Samoa said, StarKist understands the issues raised in the statement and the cannery is a recipient of fish supply from the fishing fleet.
“And when your boats are affected, it affects the ability of the cannery to sustain its operations and it's actually resulted in a shutdown that affected our employees,” he said, referring to the one-week closure in August this year, due to fish supply shortages.
Taotasi earlier in the Council meeting, said the supply of fish remains a challenge for StarKist Samoa, which hopes that things will improve before year’s end or into the new year. (See Friday’s edition for details).
Samoa News notes that DeRosa’s statement mirrors the Lolo Administration’s long standing position and its attempts to reduce monuments and sanctuaries, open the high seas fishing and US EEZs for fishing by US fishing vessels.
PNA controls the world's largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery. Its member countries are: Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, according to the PNA website, www.pnatuna.com - which also provides information on the VDS and other details.