17 Sep 2013

Samoa may open EEZ to foreign fishing vessels

2:11 pm on 17 September 2013

A fish exporting company says the Samoan government is in talks with China to allow its heavily subsidised fishing vessels into Samoa's Exclusive Economic Zone.

The managing director of Apia Export Fish Packers, John Luff, says such a deal would mean local fishing vessels could not compete and fish stocks would deplete at an even more alarming rate.

Mr Luff says he learned about the negotiations through an industry member who has government connections.

He says China already operates 1,300 fishing vessels in other EEZ's in the South Pacific, and allowing them into Samoa's waters would have huge implications for the local industry.

"These vessels are virtually surrounding the South Pacific. Some are operating under foreign licencing in other EEZs in the Pacific. And that has a huge detrimental effect on the stock obviously. But one of the biggest issues is that these vessels are very very heavily subsidised. We are not on a level playing field here."

Mr Luff says it would be a shame if Samoa abandons its previously strong stance on preserving its fish stocks.

The acting CEO for the Fisheries Division, Joyce Samuelu Ah-Leong, says there is no truth to the claims whatsoever.