Dr. Robert A. Kinzie III kinzie at
Tue Nov 13 16:48:44 EST 2001



12 November 2001

Aleipata and Safata Marine Protected Areas (MPA) District Committees have
placed traditional bans on SCUBA fishing and have called on the Government
of Samoa to urgently ban SCUBA spearfishing throughout Samoa.

Since the ban on SCUBA fishing in American Samoa earlier this year Alii ma
Faipule and their MPA District Committees in both Aleipata and Safata have
noticed that this form of destructive fishing is now frequently seen and
carried out mostly by people from outside the Districts.

SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) fisherman use dive
tanks and associated breathing gear to gain access to fish, especially at
night. Most vulnerable are parrotfish, surgeonfish, grouper and wrasses.  
Whilst SCUBA is fine for tourism and local sport divers it can be a highly
destructive tool when used by commercial fisherman.

"The problem with using SCUBA is that fishermen are able to follow the
fish into deeper and deeper water so the fish no longer have a deepwater
refuge from fishing pressure - the fish have nowhere to hide, they can
catch all or most of them," said Latu Afioga, Aleipata MPA District

"Furthermore the growing commercial SCUBA fishery benefits only a few
people - who earn a lot of money doing it and who are largely from outside
the Districts - but it is the local village fisherman and their families
who will suffer if the reefs are overfished as it will be much harder for
them to catch food, " said Pulea Ifopo, Safata MPA District Officer.

The MPA Project Team has been researching the impact of SCUBA fishing in
support of the call for a ban on SCUBA fishing from Aleipata and Safata
Marine Protected Areas. A summary of 7 GOOD REASONS TO BAN SCUBA FISHING
is attached to this press release.

The Aleipata and Safata MPAs are being established as multi-use,
community-based marine protected areas and are a partnership between the
Districts of Safata and Aleipata, the Government of Samoa, IUCN and the
World Bank.  The Safata MPA extends from Mulivai in the east to Saanapu in
the west and includes nine villages – Mulivai, Tafitoala, Fausaga, Fusi,
Vaiee, Nuusuatia, Lotofaga, Sataoa, and Saanapu. The Aleipata MPA extends
from Tiavea in the north to Lalomanu on the south eastern coast and
includes eleven villages - Tiavea, Samusu, Amaile, Utufaalalafa,
Saleaaumua, Mutiatele, Lotopue, Satitoa, Ulutogia, Vailoa and Lalomanu.

For further information please contact the MPA Project Team phone 23 800
Pulea Ifopo Safata MPA District Officer (72965), Latu Afioga – Aleipata
MPA District Officer (74297).


1. The commercial SCUBA spearfishery is a major factor in the serious
decline of fish stocks on Tututila. SCUBA fishing was banned in American
Samoa in March 2001.  .  It is also banned in Australia, Fiji and French

2. The commercial SCUBA spearfishery is a major factor that led to the
collapse of the reef fish fishery on Guam. Guam now has to import its reef
fish to eat from the Philippines.

3. Fish are most vulnerable to spearfishing at night when they are asleep.  
That means that the fishermen can simply go around a reef at night and
pick them up like a vacuum cleaner.  That is very efficient, since the
fish don't have a fighting chance like they do during the day when they
can see the diver coming.

4.	Once the fisheries have collapsed, they may not recover or take a very long time to do so, if 
at all.  The problem is, that if you catch all or most of the fish, there are none left to breed 
and replenish the stocks.  There are already several examples of this for coral reef fisheries 

? A seamount was discovered and fished down off Guam in 1967.  The fishery
completely collapsed and still hasn't recovered 34 years later.

? An important grouper spawning aggregation was overfished in Denges
Channel in Palau 1986.  It has not recovered.

? Hundreds to thousands of tons of sea cucumbers were fished at Truk
during the 1930s.  The fishery collapsed and has not recovered 70 years
later (very few individuals found in recent surveys).

? Pearl oysters were harvested heavily from Pearl and Hermes Reef (NW
Hawaiian islands) in 1927/28.  The population was decimated by 1930.  
Still not recovered 70 years later - recent surveys found only a few.

5. Overfishing of herbivorous (plant - eating) fish may have serious long
term effects on the ecosystem: One of the primary targets of this fishery
is the seaweed eating parrotfish.  If these fish are removed from the
reefs, there is a risk of algae overgrowing the corals.  This has been
experienced in Jamaica and the reefs shift from primarily coral to algal
reefs from which it is difficult to recover.

6. Human health risks – poorly trained SCUBA fisherman run the risk of
severe injury, even death, from the use of SCUBA.  With long fishing hours
mostly at night in remote locations, sometimes inadequate training, lack
of decompression facilities and poorly maintained equipment mean that
fishing using SCUBA or other air supplied breathing equipment is a risky
business and was banned in Fiji because of numerous deaths and injuries.

7. A good way to ban this fishery is to ban fishing using SCUBA and make
it illegal to carry SCUBA gear and spearguns together (eg in the same

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