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Why Samoa's Exclusive Economic Zone is small

Samoa’s exclusive economic zone (E.E.Z.) is the smallest in the region due to a quirk of geography and the Government is currently locked in negotiations to change its maritime boundaries, a top fisheries official has said. 

Magele Etuati Ropeti, the Assistant C.E.O. of the Fisheries Division, said the peculiarities of Samoa's geography and proximity to other sea-bound nations have given it maritime boundaries extending approximately 120,000km.  

“Our exclusive economic zone is the smallest in the region because we are sea-locked, which means the other countries are very close to us, most of the time we have to look at the equidistance to declare exclusive economic zones," he said. 

“In the north we have Tokelau, south you will find Tonga and west you will find Wallis and Futuna, so they can’t go to that 200 miles exclusive economic zone because if they do then the other countries will extend their 200 miles, so you will have to look at somewhere in the middle.” 

(Samoa is currently using the declared Forum Fisheries Agency boundaries).

But Magele said delineation work and negotiation is currently being conducted with other island nations sharing that are sharing Samoa's exclusive economic zone.

“Most countries are halfway through their exclusive economic zone negotiations and some have been declared so that is where F.F.A. and Pacific Community are assisting the member countries.”  

Magele also spoke on the economic benefits of fishing boats calling into Samoa’s ports to export their fish overseas. 

“When [vessels] leave, they take one to two months supplies and they are sourced locally and some of the agents that are working with these fishing boats have arrangements with local suppliers to resupply these boats when they leave," she said. 

“The majority of these fishing boats are not licensed to fish in Samoa, so they fish in our neighbouring exclusive economic zones and they come over to transship because they find it very convenient, as we have the onshore support and facilities, and supplies for fresh local produce. 

“(Transshipment) is a big activity apart from the direct economic gains through the use of the wharf.” 

Responding to concerns expressed by Le-vetti Taula of Siumu, in a recent Samoa Observer article of locals losing their fish market to Chinese fishing vessels, Magele said: “I don’t think the Chinese companies are taking over the markets of the local fishermen.

“These companies, most of them are exporting their fish, and I have seen it with my own eyes. And at times when the small boats are not getting anything, they will buy fish from those companies and sell it to the markets. 

“They don’t sell fish in the fish market. Selling the fish to the hotels is something they do with their own companies, I am not aware. All I can say they are helping out and also contributing to providing fish for the country.”

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