Amata Highlights Fishing Access as Food Security Issue to Secretary Bernhardt

April 9, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Wednesday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata was able to bring up the need to reopen fishing access as a matter of national food security during a call with Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

Congresswoman Amata brought up directly two aspects of American Samoa’s fishing industry during the discussion: Reopening access to waters, and the currently unavailable observers for fishing vessels, requesting that the observer on board requirement be waived.

“I conveyed to Secretary Bernhardt that we appreciate Interior’s swift grant of $1 million for COVID-19 protective gear for the Pacific Territories through the Office of Insular Affairs, where Assistant Secretary Doug Domenech and OIA Director Nik Pula are doing a great job,” said Aumua Amata. “My message to the Secretary is that the COVID crisis highlights the fact that food security equals national security. Now is the time to reopen commercial fishing in the American waters in the Marine Monuments as the Interior Department has recommended.”

Rep. Amata and Sec. Bernhardt
Secretary Bernhardt and Congresswoman Amata (file photo)


Congresswoman Amata reiterated that the largest tuna cannery in the country is in American Samoa operated by Starkist, and it supplies all the military rations and school lunch programs for tuna.

“Demand is up 40 percent since the crisis started as people throughout the world stock up on canned goods like tuna,” Amata said.

She went on to raise the immediate issue that the purse seine fishing vessels need a waiver from the “observer on board” requirement because they simply can’t get observers to show up.

“Our boats should not sit idle while foreign boats fish without these observers,” Congresswoman Amata said.

She requested that Secretary Bernhardt reiterate these needs to both the President and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

Congresswoman Amata also strongly made the case for reopening access to waters in a detailed March letter to President Trump, urging food security priorities during the pandemic’s affect on global health and economies.