The Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is serious about stopping the sale of undersized fish.
This is the assurance from Fisheries Compliance Officer, Tologata Tamaleaoa Leilua. He was responding to questions about the number of illegal undersized fish being sold around the country.
A member of the public had raised the concern with the Weekend Observer, saying she was concerned that if the practice continues, the future generations will have not much seafood to depend upon.
Tologata said the concern is valid and one that is also shared by the Ministry.
And this is why they are regularly monitoring and apprehending offenders.
“Every three days, we plan and then we go about doing surveys on the type of fish that the Samoan people are selling,” he said.
“We are still conducting surveys to ensure that people abide by the law. We do regular checkups at the fish market, the roadside and even the shops that are selling fish.”
Tologata said the law covers the size of fish and seafood that can be sold and removed from the sea. But as much as they try, in many cases, they cannot cover the entire nation and areas where the illegal practice is happening.
This is where they rely on members of the public.
“We have people reporting on cases like these;” he said.
“We have reports on fish vendors selling fish that are not of the required size, we bring these people in and we investigate them because these fish vendors are basically breaking the law.”
Tologata said in many cases, the vendors claim they do not understand the law.
In those cases, the Fisheries Division has had to explain to them again.
Ironically, the law about undersize catches has been in existence for more than 30 years, according to the Officer.
“But even with that, there are still people who claim that they do not know.”
Not everyone is fined and prosecuted.
Tologata admitted that the process is not always easy to follow, which is why they sometimes let vendors off with a warning.
“When we find people who are selling undersize fish, we bring them in and we interview them on why they are doing this.
“Do they know that the law forbids them from selling undersize fish.”
There are limitations on the size of different species that fishermen are supposed to catch.
“For example, surgeonsfishes and tangs (alogo and poge) are mostly the ones that people are selling.
“So the required size and length for these fishes to be sold is 200 millimeters (7.9 inches).”