American Samoa Lt. Gov. asks fisheries, sanctuary and coral reef efforts to work together

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Sanctuary map.

Tuiteleleapaga noted that Manu`a includes six villages, which were not considered when the legislation was put into place. “The mentality of Samoans as regards the sea and land, your ownership goes as far as you can see inside of your house out into the ocean. No one has the right to say you cannot go there. … Ownership is very different from Westerners, that is what we are saying. The salutations at the `ava ceremony were given to you because our forefathers gave it to us, that is what we gave to you when you visit our shores. … Samoans are very structured … Think of the peculiarities of each island. … You want to talk sanctuaries, go to that village.” Tutieleleapaga concluded, “We have a Governor; that was what the colonial government gave to us.” He urged “to study the people and your problems would be easy to solve.”

Va`amua Henry Sesepasara of the Pago Alia Fishing Association and a former director of the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) said in the 1980s he supported the establishment of the Fagatele Sanctuary for educational purposes. It was remote, small and not many people fished there. When the Sanctuary expansion came up, he was a member of the American Samoa Marine Sanctuary Advisory Board and the board voted against it. “Unfortunately, three days later, another special meeting was called,” Sesepasara said, “because [then Gov. Tulafono] instructed the directors of DMWR and EPA [American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency] to change their vote and support the extension of the marine sanctuary. The governor’s wish is not the people’s wish. … Fagatele extension is not the people’s wish. It is the wish of one person.” Sesepasara said Aunu`u island is part of the bottomfish area that is closed because of the expansion. He asked the Council to help the new Administration open the area up so the fishermen can fish. “If fish there as a sport fisherman almost every weekend,” he said. “Sunday meal is very important; we bring our best food. Our best food is fresh fish.”

The July 26, 2012, Federal Register notice on the “Expansion of Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Regulatory Changes, and Sanctuary Name Change; Final Rule” notes that “The Aunu’u Island unit will be divided into two zones: A Multiple Use Zone (Zone A), where fishing would be allowed [provided that vessel operators make their presence known to the sanctuary or its designate in the village of Aunu’u prior to entering the sanctuary to conduct extractive activities], and a Research Zone (Zone B), where all consumptive uses except trolling and surface fishing would be prohibited to provide a control area as a mechanism for research activities.”
Talaimatai Su`a, the Fono Representative from Saole County, which includes Aunu`u island, said that his people were given wrong information about the Sanctuary. He said he strongly opposes the Sanctuary in Saole, including Aunu`u. “I am looking for people to have access to their front shore, whatever food they can access,” he said. He said the village council signed a petition also, but [then Gov. Tulafono] ignored it.

Additional testimony against the expanded Sanctuary was provided by Distinguished Eo Mokoma, a 65-year master fisherman (tau tai) and member of the Pago Alia Fisherman Association and by Jerome Ierome from the Eastern District. Ierome asked that hearings be brought to the people. He urged, “Go village by village to solicit the views of the people who will be effected."

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