NOAA’s legal advisers will issue official correspondence to the American Samoa Government regarding the refusal of local authorities to allow the research vessel Oscar Elton Sette to dispose refuse during a research expedition around the island earlier this year.
A House hearing on the matter this morning was in response to a request from NOAA via the Governor’s Office for clarification of the law which NOAA alleges the Department of Agriculture tampered with in order to avoid doing their job.
The hearing was attended by Attorney General, Talauega Eleasalo Ale, Director of Agriculture, Lealao Mel Purcell and his Deputy, Peter Gurr and Deputy Director of Port Administration, Mr. Chris King.
No NOAA representative was present at the hearing.
An initial hearing was set for last week but had to the re-scheduled because only two witnesses turned up but more were called.
Mr. Gataivai Talamoa, NOAA field representative showed up however he was unable to enter the chamber as he was wearing a safari and House rules required a tie.
When contacted by KHJ News as to why NOAA did not attend the hearing, Mr. Talamoa said that he is not at liberty to speak about this issue anymore as their legal representatives are handling it.
During today’s hearing, DOA Director Lealao said the ground agent for the Oscar Elton Sette was not doing their job,
He said the agent should connect with their office and follow usual procedures.
Questioned if this is the first time a vessel has been refused disposal of its garbage, DOA officials responded that they were not sure.
Deputy Director, Peter Gurr said the NOAA agent is to be blamed.
It was not mentioned during the hearing who the agent for the NOAA vessels is.
Gurr also pointed out one of the reasons for the move to refuse inspection for the NOAA vessel was because they were trying to protect the local community from having another possible disease virus like Zika.