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Local resident concerned with proposed Rose Atoll rules

Local resident Domingo Ochavillo has raised with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) concerns over provisions of proposed rule changes regarding fishing in the waters of the Rose Atoll National Marine Monument.


For example, he says, requiring federal permits and reporting for non-commercial and recreational charter fishing to aid in the monitoring of fishing activities, “creates unnecessary burden on subsistence and traditional fishing.”


He said most of the fishermen who intend to go to Rose Atoll to fish are from the Manu’a Islands, which is 300 plus nautical miles from Tutuila.  Additionally, there is no reliable transportation - air or boat - between the Manuas and Tutuila.


“Filling the form might only take 15 minutes but waiting for the approval surely would take much longer,” he argued.


Regarding the proposed requirement to indicate fish species caught,  he said this is  unrealistic as most fishermen know only family or supra-family level classification and the other requirement to indicate fishing location is also unrealistic.


“Most fishermen are secretive of their fishing grounds. Indicating fishing location does not make sense given that Rose Atoll is such a small area,” he said.


Another proposed rule prohibits  fishing within 12 nautical miles (nm) around Rose Atoll and that the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council and NMFS would review this regulation after three years. 


Ochavillo points out that traditional fishing in Rose mostly occurs on the coral reefs which are within 3 miles from shore.


“Prohibiting all types of fishing within 12 nm basically prohibits going to Rose for traditional fishing at all. It would also be very hard to delineate when 12 nm begins from shore,” he argued. “Non-commercial fishing should be allowed within 12 nm or exclude this regulation.”


As to the proposal that would prohibit commercial fishing outside the Monument and non-commercial fishing within the Monument during the same trip, Ochavillo said, this is “tough to impose”, because most fishermen might do a combination of commercial fishing outside the Monument and non-commercial within.


“There is already 50 nm exclusion for longline and purse seines. There is only one small boat doing commercial longlining in American Samoa and the stocks are still in good health so this is an unnecessary burden,” he concluded.