Aumua and Water, Power & Oceans Subcommittee Hold Hearing to Question National Marine Monuments

September 29, 2015
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Tuesday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata, The House Natural Resources, Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee conducted an oversight hearing on “The Potential Implications of Pending Marine National Monument Designations,” to examine the impact these designations have had on the U.S. fishing industry and the communities those areas of the Ocean serve.  As a Member of Congress whose district has been one of the most affected by these designations, committee leadership sought her input and knowledge on the issue.

Marine Monuments in the South Pacific
Map of the South Pacific National Marine Monuments

“While I do not sit on this subcommittee, I want to thank Chairman Fleming and Ranking Member Huffman for inviting me to be here today to participate in this hearing on an issue that is of the utmost consequence to the district I represent, American Samoa,” said Amata.  “In my home district of American Samoa, the ocean plays a culturally and economically significant role in day to day life, and has for hundreds of years. Long before American Samoa became a U.S. territory, people have fished for their livelihood in the waters that surround the island, and to this day these traditional fishing methods are still practiced,” stated Amata. “In addition to the cultural significance, commercial fishing and the related industries make up nearly 80% of our island economy. I would not be exaggerating if I said the people of American Samoa understand better than most, the importance of protecting our oceans and how much of an impact these broad-sweeping administrative decisions have on individual communities,” concluded Amata.

In 2012, the Administration expanded the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary from 0.25 to 13,581 square miles and renamed it the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa.  While sanctuaries do not automatically prohibit commercial fishing as Marine Monuments do, the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa prohibits harvesting of multiple species and the use of various methods of fishing, some of which are traditional techniques used by the people of American Samoa.

During the hearing Amata addressed Chris Oliver who serves as the Executive Director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council… “Fishing is a mainstay for the local culture and economy in American Samoa, and both sanctuaries and marine national monuments in the Western Pacific have impacts on our fisheries.  Many proponents of marine monuments say that they don’t hurt commercial fishing because the grounds directly outside of the monument become more fruitful.  However, in your testimony you seem to indicate that may not always be the case.  Looking at the monuments in the Western Pacific, what did those designations do to commercial fishing?” questioned Amata.

Mr. Oliver responded by explaining that, displaced fisheries create concentrated areas outside of the protected area which works to the detriment of the intended protected area, and expressed his belief that these designations seem to do more harm to the local environment than good.

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