American Samoa fishing association hopeful about industry
The American Samoa longliner association says if there is a collaborative effort between government, industry members and port owners the dwindling industry could be saved.
The American Samoa longliner group, Tautai Fishing Association, says if federal and local government, port owners and industry members work together, the suffering industry could be saved.
An association member, Carlos Sanchez, says it met with the government to discuss falling fish prices, competition from subsidised Chinese fishing boats, lack of port space and the excise tax on fish.
Mr Sanchez says the governor, Lolo Moliga, assured members they would get all possible help from the government but wants two weeks to review the issues to come up with a plan.
He told Mary Baines the industry needs some financial help from the government before it can turn things around itself.
CARLOS SANCHEZ: We are concerned about the lack of docking for us, because any boat has priority over the longliners and the space is very small. They tell you to move, and we say, "to where"? But the other issue was taxes. We fish in the EEC of the American Samoa waters. We cannot go outside because we have no licence to go to anywhere, so we have to fish inside the American Samoa waters and we have to pay five percent tax for any fish that we unload over here in American Samoa. And our question was, why if this is local product, why do we have to pay? So it's just things like that that we brought up to the attention to the government and they understood our problems and they are trying to resolve them.
MARY BAINES: So what do you expect them to actually do? I know they've said before that [the government] is not in a position to subsidise you guys. So what else can they do?
CS: Well they can describe our fisheries like it's in trouble. I know this is not a permanent thing because we expect ourselves to do something about it and try to make ourselves more efficient and compete with Chinese. But we need financing to make our boats more competitive. The problem is we cannot ask for loans at banks or anybody, because the banks don't loan any money especially now that we are in trouble. But we think a little bit of our part, and a little bit of the government and a little bit of the local government, we can resolve the issue. When there is a will and everyone is willing to see the problem and put a little bit here and a little bit there. Otherwise I mean, someone can be crazy in love and buy us out, that would be a good solution!
MB: And at the moment there are 20 longliners that are up for sale because of these issues.
CS: Yes. I have an offer by a company to lease my longliners to them for some other fishers. So you know there's a lot of things. We just need time. Now that the government is talking and the canneries have told us that they need us and they'll back us up, I think we'll at least survive long enough to see if we can change our operating situation, see if we can do something different.
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