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SPC to provide Creel Survey, Fish ID Training

The Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) is working in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in New Caledonia, to conserve and sustain the use of coastal fisheries resources in the Pacific.


DMWR Director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga and Mike Batty, Director of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Marine Ecosystems Division of SPC have signed an agreement to provide Market and Creel Survey Training, along with Fish ID training, for DMWR Boat and Inshore Base Staff.


Peing Yeeting, an SPC scientist, is currently in the territory to conduct these trainings, which began Wednesday, April 3 and will continue until next Friday, April 12.


In an e-mail correspondence from Dr. Matagi-Tofiga to Samoa News yesterday, the DMWR Director explained that the training will start in the classroom (theory) and later extend to the practicum portion.


"I am very proud of this partnership with our friends in the Pacific, and I look forward to more collaborative training and sharing of ideas," Dr. Matagi-Tofiga said. She added, "This will only enhance our knowledge in providing scientifically sound information that can support decision-making in oceanic and coastal fisheries management measures."


According to information from shore-based creel survey program supervisor Yvonne Mika, DMWR has been monitoring shore-based fishing activities since 1978 to identify trends in fishing activities. This program was not operated continuously but rather, stopped and started again numerous times.


The objective of the American Samoa Shore-Based Creel Survey Program is to estimate the participation, effort, and harvest of shore-based recreational/subsistence fisheries to support the territory's marine fisheries resources, and to gather limited biological data that will add to a long-term historical database on American Samoa's important inshore fish species.


"Effective management of American Samoa's marine fishery resources requires data collection of fishing efforts, methods used, and harvest," Mika explained. She added that the American Samoa Shore-based Creel Survey Program is one of the major data collection systems used by DMWR to estimate fisheries resources.


The term "inshore" was previously used when referring to the Creel Survey Program. The preferred term now is "shore-based" because it covers all fishing done from shore, regardless of where the fishing occurred, e.g., inside or outside the reef or lagoon.


Mika said, "This is an important distinction because the place where the fishing activity is initiated (shore vs. boat) determines how that activity is accounted for in the survey systems. For instance, the fishing activity of a small boat (without a motor) that is easily launched from the shoreline to hold gear (net, coolers, floating devices) will be included in the shore-based data collection program."


According to Mika, American Samoa's Shore-based Creel Survey is a stratified, randomized data collection program. It uses two types of data collection methods to estimate the catch and effort information, and to monitor the fishing activity of the shore-based fishery:


1)  A shore-based participation count that involves counting the number of people fishing at the scheduled survey route, where their trip originated from the shoreline, and not using a boat; and


2)  A shore-based interview to collect catch and effort data that involves interviewing fishermen to determine catch, methods used, lengths and weights of fish, species composition, catch disposition, and if any fish were not kept (by-catch).


"The data collected is expanded at a stratum level — expansion period [quarterly or annually], day type [weekday or weekend], day or night, and gear type - to create the estimated landings by gear type for this fishery," Mika explained.


American Samoa's Shore-based Creel Survey Program covers the most accessible shoreline areas along Tutuila's southern shore. Survey collections are conducted at three separate routes:


West: Amanave to Vailoa


Central: Nu'uuli to Aua


East: Lauli'i to Tula


With regards to reporting, the WPacFIN data processing system generates data entry validation reports, maintenance reports, and various data summary reports, including expanded catch and effort, and expanded species composition.


Mika explained that a performance report is compiled by the project leader and submitted to the fisheries chief biologist, before it lands on the desk of the department director.


Results from the database are presented to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Western Pacific Fishery Management Council. The Council produces part of its annual reports on American Samoa to Congress through contributions of DMWR’s data collection and analysis. The data will also be available for staff members and the public, and can be utilized for technical guidance and scientific exchange projects.


The DMWR's Shore-based Creel Survey Program is supervised by Yvonne Mika with assistance from technicians: Auva'a So'onaolo, Oliver Leau, Herbie Umi, and Luatasi Tone in American Samoa; Fa’apouli Niumata in Ta'u, Manu'a; and Pita Ili on Ofu Island. The group is under the guidance of DMWR Chief Fishery Biologist Dr. Domingo Ochavillo.


More information on the Shore-based Creel Survey Program can be obtained by contacting DMWR directly at 633-4456.