The main goal of American Samoa’s delegation to the annual meeting of the governing body for tuna in the Pacific Ocean, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, is to support the local canneries, and all fishing vessels that are home ported in American Samoa.
The WCPFC, also known as the Tuna Commission, is meeting in Nadi, Fiji next week.
American Samoa ‘s delegation is led by Director of Marine and Wildlife Resources – Dr. Ruth Matagi Tofiga and includes Director of Commerce-Kenisele Lafaele, Chairman of the American Samoa Fishery Task Force-Solip Hong, Scientist Eric Kingma of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, DMWR Chief Fishery Biologist-Dr Domingo Ochavillo; DMWR Supervisor-Boat Base, Tepora Lavata’i Joe Hamby of Tri Marine and Brett Butler, former StarKist Samoa General Manager.
The local reps will be part of the US delegation to the Commission meeting.
Dr. Matagi Tofiga said a combination of economic factors and fishing limits placed on purse seiners are affecting purse seiners.
She said if purse seine fishing operations stop and fish supplies to the canneries diminish the territory is greatly affected.
She mentions as an example the Effort Limit Area for Purse Seines, a conservation measure set by NOAA.
Dr. Matagi-Tofiga says the Tropical Tuna Measure, besides designating effort limits for purse seine fishing, also designates catch limits for big-eye tuna.
Tri-Marine petitioned the US National Marine Fisheries Service for an emergency rule making and requested that NOAA Fisheries exempt from that high seas limit, US flagged purse seine vessels that deliver at least 50% of their catch to tuna processing facilities in American Samoa.
However, the petition was denied.
NOAA said it needs more scientific evidence on the impact of the measure on the fishery.
At the Tuna Commission meeting, American Samoa has a seat at the table with the rest of the countries however it still defers to the US in all of the discussions.