Govt. looks to increase foreign fishing catch

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has issued 24 fishing licenses to foreign fishing companies to date and are looking to increase the number to meet the country’s 5,000 tonne quota of tuna catch.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopaoo Natanielu Mua, said they have two-three license applications still in the pipeline as they try to assess the requirements needed before approval. 

He said about 10 to 12 fishing licenses are registered to local companies. 

The issuing of fishing licenses is done on a first come first serve basis, Lopaoo added. 

Last year Samoa did not meet its quota.

"The Ministry is encouraging a little bit more [licensing] so that they can take up a little bit more [tuna] otherwise the tuna commission will say: ‘Hey, look you haven’t been using your quota for many years’.”

But that’s not the case, Lopao'o said, as the Government is being very careful in allocating licenses.

“It’s a matter of taking stock assessment of what we have, if we see our stock level is still high depending on figures from F.F.A. (Forum Fisheries Agency) and tuna, and they say look the fish stock are high, ok but you have got to control, you have to ensure you implement the necessary control," the Minister said. 

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“There’s one plane being hosted here and one in Vanuatu funded by the Australian Government to help with policing Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (I.U.U) fishing. We have to look at all those aspects before we can issue more licenses.” 

Lopao'o said he does not have any intention of increasing the quota in order to maintain a sustainable tuna stock. 

“The other issue is sustainability, we need to control fishing, that’s why we have the planes, the navy vessel from Australia to make sure we can police our ocean and making sure we catch those people illegally fishing in our waters or doing something they shouldn’t be doing.

“The boats that are licensed to fish here have not been caught doing illegal fishing. Under the F.F.A. agreement with the Pacific Islands we have a [vessel monitoring system] and all the vessels that are licensed here, as soon as they come into port they can see it in the Solomon Islands. When they go out they can also see it from there. 

“They [long liners] are not doing it in the Pacific because they know they get caught. For licensing requirements, the numbers and the control facilities that we need from them to be implemented in the vessels so that we can see them through the system are done, if they don’t, they don’t get a license, and if they turn it off, the license will be cancelled

“So on the basis of the vessels licensed in Samoa being caught with I.U.U., we haven’t had a case of illegal fishing activities by our vessels or we reporting to other countries that your vessel is coming here and fishing in our waters.”

Lopao'o said there have been some cases of “blue boats” from Asian countries caught in Samoa and parts of the Pacific:

“There was one fishing boat that got caught up in our sea a year ago but the details didn’t actually say illegal fishing activities, I think there has been some investigations into that but I don’t have the information of that particular case.”  

He added Samoa has benefited from the transshipment of fish by foreign fishing vessels using the Matautu wharf. 

“For one long line fishing boat, they spend [about[ $100,000 - $150,000 every time they call in because they get provisions and some of them actually get refuelling here. 

“Between January and July this year we had over 200 fishing boats transshipping through here. Every long line buys about $2,000-$4,000 worth of vegetables and on top of that they buy rice etc.” 

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