SCUBA spearfishing banned in American Samoa

andy cornish andy_cornish at
Mon Apr 9 02:14:10 EDT 2001

forwarded message .......

As Chief Biologist at the Department of Marine and
Wildlife Resources, American Samoa, I am writing to
let you know that yesterday morning (6th April 2001)
the Governor of American Samoa signed an Executive
Order totally banning the use of SCUBA for fishing in
the territory, effective immediately.
The order's main clause is the prohibition of the
possession of underwater breathing apparatus and spear
or modified spear, together in the sea, on the
shoreline, on a vessel or in a vehicle. 

The Department (DMWR) held 2 public hearings and there
was overwhelming public support for a total SCUBA
fishing ban. Visiting Scientists Professor Charles
Birkeland and Dr. Alison Green and DMWR staff made
presentations and anwered questions at these meetings,
which were chaired by DMWR Director Ray Tulafono.  

The order has been made in order to conserve inshore
reef fish stocks from further decline on the Island of
Tutuila, American Samoa and to promote their recovery.
Free diving, with spear, to take fish is permitted. A
regulation totally banning SCUBA fishing will be
developed in the next 70-80 days. This will then
supercede the EO.  

The sum of evidence from the last 15 years of survey
work, i.e. 20 technical reports (mainly of DMWR),
including a valuable recent study of parrotfishes by
DMWR biologist Mike Page during 1997-98, have
indicated that reef fish stocks of the main Island of
Tutuila have been heavily fished since introduction of
SCUBA fishing in 1994 and are now at a dangerously low
level. For instance, total catches of parrotfishes
from the reefs fringing the island of Tutuila
increased from relatively low, sustainable levels
prior to 1994 (1-3 tonnes) to dangerously high,
unsustainable levels during 1994-98 (25-33 tonnes) 
(DMWR report, Page et al, 1998). Page et al (1998)
estimated that the 1998 catch of 33 tonnes was one
fifth of the total biomass of parrotfishes of Tutuila

Parrotfishes are in low abundance and of small size
now (monitoring surveys by Prof. Chuck Birkeland,
University of Hawaii, USA, Dr Alison Green, GBRMPA,
QLD and Dr. Craig Mundy, University of Woolagong,
NSW). Prof. Birkeland has been monitoring the reefs
and reef fishes of Tutuila by regular surveys for the
last 20 years and Drs. Alison Green and Craig Mundy
for the last 6 years. 

Reef fish stocks in the Manu'a group of islands 60
miles upstream to the east are in good shape (abundant
and with individuals of relatively large size) -
recent surveys by DMWR staff led by Marie-Claude
Filteau. SCUBA is not used for fishing there. 

Results of a community survey of the fishing problems
of 11 fishing villages by DMWR staff led by Fatima
Sauafea in 2000 indicated that one fifth of the 200
odd  respondents believed that fishing by outside
fishermen (using SCUBA) was the most serious problem. 

This program is part of the DMWR's first priority of
research and management - The Community Fisheries
Management Program (CFMP). The principal objective of
this voluntary program is to facilitate the
development of community fisheries management plans.
The method is based upon the successful approach in
nearby Independent Samoa. Local communities in
Independent Samoa, and now here in American Samoa, are
being empowered for effective management, monitoring,
control and surveillance of their marine resources. A
problem-solution tree method is used with villagers to
help them develop a draft fisheries management plan,
coordinated by a village Fisheries Management Advisory
Commitee (FMAC) comprised solely of members from the
community - chiefs, untitled men and women. Villagers
in Samoa often decided to set aside areas of their
reefs for no-take marine protected areas. This
ecosystem approach to management was recognised by the
comunities as a valuable tool to aid recovery of
depleted reef fish stocks.

The first village - Poloa - at the western end of
Tutuila, appropriately facing and in sight of the
islands of Independent Samoa, formally accepted the
program (CFMP) at a traditional kava ceremony about a
week ago. DMWR biologists were invited to the village
for the first group meeting today (7th April). The
village has already set aside an area of reef as a
no-take marine reserve. DMWR aims to increase village
ownership of marine resources and promote sustainable
use of inshore and nearshore marine resources by this
program. The CFMP is co-managed by DMWR biologists
Flinn Curren and Fatima Sauafea and has received
significant and valuable (on-going) support from the
Samoa Fisheries Division (Etueti Ropeti, and Mike
King) and the SPC (Ueta Fa'asli) in training and
program guidance.

Best regards

Dr. Chris Evans,
Chief Biologist,
PO Box 3730, Pago Pago, 
American Samoa 96799, USA.
Tel. +684 633 4456
CHRISTOPHER EVANS <chris_r_evans_2000 at> 

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