The owner of local fishing company, Tautai Longline Services Inc, Carlos Sanchez, has reacted strongly to the official statement by the American Samoa delegation at the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Fiji.
Sanchez after reading the statement delivered by delegation leader, Dr. Ruth Matagi Tofiga, emailed the DMWR Director and said, “Shame on ASG for claiming that the local US flagged longline fleet was American Samoa’s longline fleet.”
He demands an apology from Dr. Matagi-Tofiga for making this claim when ASG does not recognize nor support them.
Sanchez said, “Shame on ASG for making claim to this longline fleet that the current Governor has called “a foreign fleet” and has done nothing to support this fleet and continues to alienate the fleet with the ongoing lawsuit.
“While you fight for access for the seiners, you fight against access for our longline fleet and call us foreigners.”
A lawsuit now before the Honolulu Federal District Court challenges the decision by the National Marine Fisheries, to open the 50 mile area to fishing by local longliners.
Before the rule came into force, only local alia boats were allowed to fish in waters 50 miles from shore.
Sanchez told the DMWR director, “We used to be proudly called the American Samoa longline fleet, but this current ASG administration does not acknowledge nor support this fleet.
The businessman said, “It is a crime for ASG to take credit for a fleet of boats that have been suffering, looked down upon by the current ASG administration and are near extinction.”
He said local longliners are only able to survive due to support from the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council and the canneries.
Sanchez lets the DMWR Director know his displeasure that she continues to disregard a request that the association of local longliners has made several times.
He says, “Our Association and me personally has requested to you on many occasions that you not call us your longline fleet only for your purposes and conveniences internationally when the support is absent locally. ”
He emphasized that the longline fleet is owned by private citizens and happens to be the only U.S. fleet of commercial fishing boats where the owners actually reside in American Samoa and the owners are Native American Samoans.
Sanchez takes the delegation leader to task, saying, “All the U.S. commercial fleet that you support have owners that don’t reside in American Samoa and not one is a Native American Samoan, and yet they have 200% more support than this U.S. longline fleet. ”
Responding to Sanchez criticisms, Dr. Matagi Tofiga, explains that at international meetings, American Samoa takes the stance to fight and protect its tuna fisheries regardless of whether the fleets are US or American Samoan.
She said the US delegation and the US fishing industry are highly aware of “our efforts and initiatives to reach out to them to solicit their views and to express these views even on the plenary. ”
Dr. Matagi Tofiga said although American Samoa is technically part of the US delegation, at the fisheries meeting “we have grabbed this opportunity to express our support for the US longliners and purse seiners. ”
She said, “We just hope that the American Samoa delegation is recognized by this effort.”