US Senate Approves Key Fisheries Bill for Am Samoa

The US Senate in a huge win for American Samoa’s fishing industry and Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen, has given final approval to key fisheries legislation.

KHJ News Washington D.C. Correspondent Matt Kaye reports.

It almost didn’t happen.

The House passed the “Ensuring Access to Pacific Fisheries Act” in July, but a Senate panel later made technical changes to the bill, forcing the need for further House action, or loss of the whole bill at the end of a session.

Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen suddenly had her hands full in the final hours of the 114th Congress, racing between key Congressional leaders to find a solution.

The solution was to get the House to adopt the Senate changes…get the revised bill on the House floor…get it passed in record time…and then hope the Senate would pass the bill.

But there was a new problem: Coal state senators were blocking a raft of bills, including the fisheries bill and one to keep the government funded, in a last-minute fight over coal health and pension benefits.

But with the clock ticking down and lawmakers desperate to end a long and contentious session after a bitter election, the coal senators finally relented and the logjam was broken.

The Senate passed the Radewagen fisheries bill that the House had matched a day earlier before that chamber beat the Senate for the exits, ensuring both bills were identical, so the measure could head to the president for his expected signature.

It was a herculean task for freshman Radewagen, but one demanded by the importance of the measure for American Samoa’s beleaguered fishing industry.

The bill ensures the territory’s fishermen access to fisheries in international waters and better representation through regional fisheries councils in international talks by the North and South Pacific commissions.

Perhaps most importantly, the bill amends the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Implementation Act, to minimize disadvantage and maximize opportunities for American Samoa’s fishing fleets—especially those targeting migratory tuna stocks in the Pacific.

Radewagen complains the Obama Administration has closed off “large swaths of the Pacific Ocean” used by American Samoans for centuries, while imposing “irresponsible” wage hikes on industry.

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to dramatically reduce regulations and undo many of those imposed by Obama, in a bid to curtail costly burdens on industry and boost job creation.

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