In a decision issued today, the US National Marine Fisheries Service has allowed locally based longliners to fish within 12 miles from shore.
The federal agency approved a recommendation by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council to amend the Large Vessel Prohibited Area, (LVPA) which currently restricts longliners to fish 50 miles out.
The approval of the LVPA amendment by the National Fisheries Management Council is in conflict with the wishes of Governor Lolo, Fono leaders and recreational fishermen in American Samoa who had objected strongly against the proposal.
They said territorial waters should be restricted to the small indigenous owned alia fleet.
The governor cited that by amending the LVPA, the US was reneging on its promise under the Deed of Cession to protect natural resources including land and ocean resources for the people of Tutuila and Manu’a.
Locally owned longliners, represented by the Tautai o Samoa Longliners and Fishing Association had sought the amendment citing that they were facing hard times due to falling fish prices, long distances to go fishing using up fuel and competition from heavily subsidized Asian boats.
In its decision, the National Marine Fisheries Service said approving this action is intended to improve the efficiency and economic viability of the American Samoa long line fleet, while ensuring that fishing by the long line and small vessel fleets remains sustainable.
The Service will annually review the effects of this final rule on catch rates, small vessel participation, and sustainable fisheries development initiatives.
According to the NMFS, the American Samoa longline fishery contributed between $7.2 million and $13.7 million to the American Samoa economy between 2003 and 2013, primarily in sales of fish to the two local canneries.