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Fisheries grants new extension to reply on federal LVPA court case

Nat'l Marine Fisheries Service logo

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Government and many other local residents will have to wait until next month to see what the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) response would be to the Territory of American Samoa’s writ of certiorari petition to the Supreme Court of the United States to review a federal appeal’s court ruling, which reversed a lower court decision dealing with the Large Vessel Protected Area (LVPA) in territorial waters.

The Territory of American Samoa — through ASG and the Governor’s Office — petitioned the Supreme Court in February and NMFS, along with other federal officials to review the lower court’s decision. NMFS was to reply by Mar. 29th but the federal government requested and the Supreme Court granted an extension of time to reply until Apr. 28th.

However, Acting US Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar sought a second extension, saying that it’s “necessary because the attorneys with principal responsibility for preparation of the government’s response have been heavily engaged with the press of previously assigned matters with proximate due dates.”

 Prelogar requested the extension to May 12th and it was granted by the Supreme Court last week.

As previously reported by Samoa News, the Territory of American Samoa sued the NMFS and other federal officials, over a 2016 rule in which NMFS reduced the LVPA from 50 miles to 12 to help the US locally based longline fleet.

The lawsuit argued among other things that the federal agency acted arbitrarily in changing the boundaries. The Territory argued that the final rule “threatened cultural fishing rights protected by the Deeds” — the Deed of Cession for Tutuila and Aunu’u in 1900 and the 1904 Deed for the Manu’a islands. ASG contends that NMFS failed to consider the Deeds in its final rule.

The federal court in Honolulu, which heard the case, sided with American Samoa but NMFS and other federal defendants appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose three-judge panel reversed the lower court’s decision in a four-page decision issued last September.

In its petition to the Supreme Court, the Territory argued — among other things — that the “Ninth Circuit’s decision threatens to disrupt the relationship between the United States and one of its longstanding territories — a relationship predicated upon voluntary agreements that had served both sides well for more than a century.” (See Samoa News edition Feb. 24th for details.)