American Samoa delegate says fishing restrictions reflect bad economic policy
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The proposed expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which would shrink fishing in the region, runs counter to the U.S. government's "Buy American" policy, according to American Samoa's delegate to the U.S. Congress.
"China is subsidizing their fishing fleet while the United States is cannibalizing its own fleet through fishing prohibitions, overregulation and abandonment of our own fishing rights," Rep. Uifa’atali Amata Coleman Radewagen said.
Radewagen reiterated her opposition to the sanctuary expansion plan during a hearing held Thursday by the House Committee on Natural Resources, where she directed her remarks to Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council of Environmental Quality.
“I asked her point blank if she supports the ‘buy American’ program to ensure a domestic supply of tuna for our children and servicemen in the school lunch and military rations programs, but she deflected and deferred to NOAA,” Radewagen said.
“Let’s be clear, CEQ calls the shots from the White House as NOAA, and the Commerce and Interior Departments report through CEQ in the White House, so it is clear that this administration is waffling on the needs of the Pacific territories for continued fishing rights in the PRIMNM," the congresswoman added.
PRIMNM currently covers 495,189 square miles in the central Pacific Ocean, encompassing seven islands and atolls: Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Island, Johnston, Wake, and Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef.
The Biden administration plans to close off another area southwest of Hawaii.
"This makes bad national security and food security policy for the United States and remains potentially devastating to our local economy," Radewagen said.
"This action could devastate the economy of American Samoa, where 80 percent of all private sector jobs and exports are related to fishing and canning," she added.
Quoting earlier statements made by officials who sought to stop the marine expansion, Radewagen noted that "most of the opposition comments are from the president’s own team and are bipartisan in opposition."
At the NOAA outreach session in Hawaii last month, Esther Kiaʻāina, former assistant secretary of Insular Affairs, said “some federal agencies have shown more concern about the protection of natural resources and ocean resources than the actual welfare and quality of life for the indigenous peoples who live in these areas.”
Kitty Simonds, executive director of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, said her office supported the process, "but we want to make sure they include fishing in their goals and objectives.”
The NOAA comment period for this expansion recently closed.