The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has approved an exemption for longliners to fish in protected American Samoan waters.
Despite urges to delay the vote by its three American Samoan members, the Council approved plans to open up the territory's Large Vessel Protected Area which is reserved for small local fishing boats know as alia.
This would allow U.S. longline vessels based in American Samoa to fish there.
The Council is concerned the 50-mile area is being under-utilised by alia with fleets dropping to only one active boat last year.
However an American Samoan council member, Ruth Matagi-Moliga, says progress has been made to boost the local fleet with government subsidies to assist local fishermen.
The Council's chairman, Ed Ebesui, says something needs to be done and he hopes the exemption won't impact the rebuilding of the alia fleet.
There is no limit to the period of the exemption although the Council will review it annually.