06 October 2015

American Samoa Governor complains of U.S. longline fishing in its waters

"The unilateral application of U.S. laws against the wishes of the elected government of the territories is standard practice. In this case, such unilateral measures are in direct opposition to the "rule of law" through United Nations legal opinions, decisions and resolutions which have consistently recognized that marine resources belong to the territory - not the administering power. But, then, when have the big powers adhered to international law as it relates to their "territory or other property?"  Following international law is for other countries, apparently. 'Do as I say, not as I do.'  But, then, it is colonialism. What do we expect? At some point, we will recognize it for what it is." Them just maybe, we can begin to have a real dialogue on a genuine process of decolonization. - a Pacific specialist


Excerpts from U.N. Resolutions on American Samoa

"Urges the administering Powers concerned to take effective measures to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable rights of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to their natural resources and to establish and maintain control over the future development."


Am. Samoa entitled to protect its resources says Lolo

Cites protections promised in Deeds of Cession to oppose LVPA petition
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has informed US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker that the American Samoa Government opposes the proposal which would allow large US flagged longliner vessels to fish in portions of the Large Vessel Protected Area (LVPA) in the waters of American Samoa.

In his five-page letter released late Thursday by the US National Marine Fishery Service, the governor outlined his reasons for opposing the proposal made by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Citing the Deeds of Cession — the first deed is for the islands of Tutuila and Aunu’u and the second one is for the Manu’a islands — Lolo says both prohibit the Council's action.

“In each deed, the leaders of these islands peacefully ceded control of their lands, including the vast body of water surrounding those lands, to the United States.” He says total area ceded by the leaders of Tutuila, Aunu'u, and Manu'a to the US measures more than 28,000 square miles.

The United States, in consideration of the peaceful cessation of this vast area, “made a solemn promise to the people of these islands to protect their rights in the lands and other property within the Ceded Area,” Lolo said, adding that the Ceded Area is affected by the Council’s proposal.

He says the Council approved the proposed LVPA amendments, while ignoring his request to delay their decision. In his view, said Lolo, this violates the United States' solemn promise to the people of Tutuila, Aunu'u and Manu'a.

By allowing large longline “fishing vessels to invade the LVPA, the Council’s proposed action threatens to rob the people of these islands of the opportunity to nurture and practice their culture— let alone access the natural resources surrounding their islands,” he said.

Furthermore, these large vessels, with larger catch capacity, could easily deplete the fishing stock; and their presence in these waters will likely discourage local fishermen from practicing traditional fishing methods for fear of being run over by the larger longliners.


The governor also said that ASG has started a program to encourage natives of American Samoa to fish the waters around the islands. This program involves a significant investment in the building of new traditional fishing boats (alias) with capacity to prolong the fishing trips of local fishermen, he said.

ASG, through the federally funded American Samoa Small Business Credit Initiative, will provide funding to successful applicants from villages to encourage local fishermen to take up the practice of fishing as a method to earn a living, he said.

According to the governor, ASG plans to roll out this new plan in fiscal year 2016.

Additionally, ASG received a technical assistance grant from US Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs for the development of a prototype fishing vessel, called a super alia.

Lolo said the Council’s proposed action will stifle ASG's alia initiative and will likely kill the program before it becomes effective, as the incentive to fish these waters will be extinguished as bigger boats fill the waters where these alia would have thrived.


When the Council held a public hearing on Jan. 28 this year in the territory, Lolo said the Council’s staff stated that the data showed no alia longline fishing activities in the last few years.
However, the Department of Marine & Wildlife Resources (DMWR) has data that shows one local alia has been fishing longline since the establishment of the LVPA in 2004, and is still fishing up to this day, Lolo said.

“The Council based its decision to reduce the LVPA solely on the decrease of the [small] alia longline fishing activities,” he said. “However, there are about 30 alia that have switched from longline fishing to trolling and bottom-fishing activities.”

He said large longline vessels target albacore tuna, they also by-catch other pelagic species, which are the target of the other 30 local alia.”

Lolo pointed out that local alia fishing occurs predominately in the LVPA zone, and therefore, allowing large longline vessels into this area will create competition and gear conflict.

DMWR has data that shows the catches of the indigenous alia fishing fleet, he said, and these data include longline fishing, trolling and bottom-fishing on the off-shore banks.

Lolo also said the Council's decision did not take into consideration the growing sports and recreational fishing that occurs within the LVPA.

Lolo, in his letter opposing the LVPA exemption, also said that the recent trend of US policies, “including the usurpation of our fishing grounds for the sanctuaries, the creation of monuments, and the suggested invasion of our 50-mile zone by large [longline] fishing vessels, suggests that the United States is forgetting its promise to the people of this territory.”

“While American Samoa does not necessarily oppose allowing certain longliners to temporarily fish within its 50 mile zone, it strongly opposes the procedure,” he said. “American Samoa should be allowed to decide, or at least have a say in, the use of its resources, especially given the Deeds of Cession.”

In closing Lolo said ASG requests that the Council’s proposal be rejected and denied.