Ministry investigates claim, looks to strengthen partnerships

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is investigating claims that local alias have been anchoring off the Fishing Aggregating Device (F.A.D) located in Apia.

This was confirmed by the Assistant Chief Executive Officer for the Fisheries Division, Magele Etuati Ropeti.

He said they are in discussions with their lawyer on how to proceed in accordance with the current fisheries law. 

But he said their priority is to generate cooperation with the local fishing bodies, in particular the Alia Association to ensure that the message reaches the skippers of the Alia.

“The thing is we have continuously been working over the years with the local alias to look at this issue and we’ve dealt with the alia owners,” said Magele. 

“Most of the time the guys operating the alias are actually out at sea and the owners are the ones who are supposed to pass the message on to them.”

Magele said they have asked the President of the Tautai Association, who also sits on the commercial fisheries advisory committee, to initiate a meeting with the not only the alia owners but also their operators. 

The Principal Fisheries Officer, Matai’a Ueta Faasili, said there are no mechanisms for the fisheries division to disseminate information as far as the operators.

But it is in the best interest of the Alia owners to push for cooperation, he said. 

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“The issue here is more related to the mentality of the fisherman because the owners themselves have already stated in previous meetings that it is in their interest to take care of the F.A.Ds because it helps them to save fuel and make an income.”

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries currently have nine deployed F.A.D.s around Samoa.

Magele explained that the Fisheries division does not have enough resources to police all of them, which is why they rely on Alia fisherman who are out at sea almost every single day.

 “We’ve encountered this issue of alias anchoring on the F.A.Ds,” Magele said. 

“We do not have the resources to monitor these things. We’ve got nine F.A.Ds already in the water and all around the place so we are so dependent on the alia association members to report cases to us. 

“What we have found out that those based in Savai’i, they feel so responsible to look after these things and those are our eyes and ears out there to look after them because we don’t have the resources to police them.”

In looking at ways to find solutions to avoid the abuse of F.A.Ds in the future, the Fisheries division deployed several submerged F.A.Ds that are anchored 20 meters below the surface of the water, about nine months ago. 

Generally when the Ministry deploys F.A.Ds they invite the local fishermen in those particular areas to make their own landmarks and according to the feedback from the local fishermen reported to the Fisheries Division, the submerged F.A.D design is proving to be effective.

“We brought in a F.A.D expert last year to look into a new design that is not only effective but very secured,” said Magele. “It’s proven to be safe, even the big boat propellers can’t reach the unit. So there’s only a flag that comes out as a marker. They are more effective than the previous ones we have deployed according to the reports we are getting from the alias, that’s why you see loads of skipjack coming back.”

The A.C.E.O of Fisheries said that this design is also economical with the unit costing around US$2,000 ($T5,000) and with the funding that has been allocated to this area; they are looking to increase the number of these F.A.Ds as well as the monitoring of the devices.

With regards to prosecution, Magele said that he could not comment on any specific legal actions they will take. He said they are working instead on renewing and strengthening their commitment to working with their fishing partners around Samoa.

“If anything, what needs to come out of this is the partnership with our partners like S.I.G.F.A. need to be enhanced especially with the look out and putting anything in the water. The Fisheries division look to support our fisherman and enhance the development of Samoa.”

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