II. FISHERY RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT IN SAMOA
A. Development issues
Since the mid 1980s, the value of imports has averaged ten times that of exports. The trade deficit reflects the general lack of commercially valuable natural resources and the use of agricultural and fisheries products for local consumption. Food is one of the major import costs.
Fisheries development is seen primarily as a means of increasing local food supplies and reducing food imports (Samoa 1992). Offshore fisheries has the greatest promise for development. A new system of fishing using long-lines from small twin-hulled aluminium fishing boats (alia) resulted in a doubling of offshore fish catches between 1995 and 1996.
There are no known mineral deposits or other natural resources that might be sustainably developed for export. Industrial development suffers logistic and shipping constraints due to the isolated location of the islands in the central tropical south Pacific. Local fishers and farmers must compete with low-cost imported foods and the opportunities for economic advancement in either sector are slight.
The population stands at 161,298 and there is a high total fertility rate (4.76). The climate is hot and wet and so tourism facilities compete poorly with other tropical islands in more accessible locations. In 1996, only 22,136 holiday visitors arrived in Samoa, a decrease of 1.8 per cent from 1995.
Despite these unfavourable economic indicators, Samoans are not suffering compared to other countries with similar statistics. This is because the economic indicators do not account for the cultural lifestyle of Samoa or its natural wealth in terms of equitable climate, fertile soil, productive marine areas, and abundant fresh water. Few people are working in the cash economy, but the extended family lifestyle assures that everyone has employment, a piece of land to work, a home to live in, clothing, plenty of food to eat and a place in society. The villages are clean, the infrastructure satisfactory, people are healthy, active and literate. Alcohol and tobacco, both expensive luxuries, are consumed in significant quantities and being overweight is a greater health problem than hunger.
Subsistence fishing and agriculture provide the bulk of the food for the rural sector of Samoa and for many of the people living in Apia, but food imports are still a major cost to the economy. Despite the high (but declining) total fertility rate, the population increase is only 0.7 per cent per year because the excess population emigrates to New Zealand, the United States, and Australia. The money these emigrants send home as remittances form an important, underreported resource. In 1991 private remittances were $74.4 million and in the first half of 1992, this increased by 16 per cent. Between 1984 and 1990, remittances were equivalent to 29 per cent of GDP and 47 per cent of imports (Douglas & Douglas 1994).
Most of Samoa's wealth is not in cash but in lifestyle and a people-friendly habitat. These intangibles make all the difference between starvation, disease and true poverty and a comfortable, secure existence. Yet there is a tendency for islanders to overlook the immense value of their life-supporting natural resources and the need to manage them sustainably. Fish and soil and water are considered "free" while costs are associated only with the labour and equipment needed to catch the fish and farm the soil.
The long term sustainability of the culture becomes less favourable when environmental accounts are examined. There is evidence of depreciation of the land, sea, and fresh water environmental assets (Taule'alo 1993). This is a hazardous condition for any small island nation.