15 Jul 2016

Bill gives American Samoa more access to fisheries

3:41 pm on 15 July 2016

A bill that aims to give American Samoa more say in fishery management in the Western and Central Pacific has passed another hurdle.

Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen's bill titled 'Ensuring Access to Pacific Fisheries' was approved by the US House Natural Resources Committee.

It will ensure access to fisheries in international waters in the Pacific but still needs to complete the legislative process.

Ms Radewagen said the US administration has closed off large swathes of the Pacific in the past few years which have been used by American Samoans for centuries and it is time those grounds were given back.

"It has been my experience that the best stewards of natural resources are those who utilise them to make a living and that is exactly what the people of the island territories have done for many years"

Ms Radewagen said title three of the bill will make critical amendments to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Implementation Act to minimize disadvantage and maximize opportunities for fishing fleets, especially those targeting migratory tuna, which are essential to the American Samoa economy.

"Title three also aims to ensure access to our traditional fishing grounds by requiring such grounds to be considered in any formal stance taken by United States commissioners at the WCPFC (Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission)" she said.

She also said the best available scientific information should be dictating fisheries management.

"Science has taken a back seat to geo-politics during these negotiations and our fishermen are bearing the burden," she said adding The Act act aims to keep fishermen on the water by inserting science back into the administration's decisions.

"Time is of the essence and it is critical that we pass and enact this important legislation prior to the WCPFC position making process which will begin with the advisory committee meeting during the first week of October."