Pago-Pago Harbor, American Samoa. Photo courtesy of LCDR Eric Johnson, NOAA Corps
Pago-Pago, American Samoa-- American Samoa officials, Silva Group contractors and members of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council are breaking ground on Friday for a long-awaited dock for larger American Samoa fishing vessels.
Gov. Lolo M. Moliga and members of his cabinet will lead the ceremony, which will take place at 9 a.m. at the Malaloa Marina in Pago Pago.
The new berthing area extends the current dock at the Malaloa Marina by 450 feet. It will be used by the local longline fleet, currently has no dedicated dock and opportunistically berths at the main Pago Pago port, StarKist and Malaloa facilities until the arrival of purse-seine vessels, cruise liners and fuel and container ships requires them to relocate.
The American Samoa longline fleet comprises 16 vessels averaging 79 feet and three smaller alia (traditional catamaran style) vessels. It targets albacore tuna, which is delivered to the StarKist cannery. Incidental catches of marlin and yellowfin and bigeye tuna are sold to local businesses and used for cultural/community obligations.
“We must maintain this fishery,” said Kitty M. Simonds, executive director of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. “It is one of three U.S. tuna fisheries in the western and central Pacific. It has been challenged by current gaps in the management of South Pacific albacore by international fishery commissions. The United States needs to remain a pivotal player in these management and conservation negotiations.”
At the request of the American Samoa government to provide assistance in addressing the lack of docking space in Pago Pago Harbor, the council provided $195,000 through the Sustainable Fisheries Fund. The funds are used to support the Marine Conservation Plan for each of the U.S. Pacific territories, which includes fisheries development as one of the objectives. The funds were used for the design phase of the project with the agreement that the local government would identify a funding source for the construction of the dock.
“This is a great milestone and a long time coming,” said Taotasi Archie Soliai, council chair and a manager at StarKist. “The council is extremely excited and looks forward to this project completion so more dock space is available to our local fleet. Our goal is to work with the territorial governments to provide support for their MCPs, and this dock expansion falls in line with those objectives. A big heartfelt appreciation goes to Gov. Lolo Moliga and his administration for the funding allocation toward this project. This is a win-win situation for everyone.”