III. ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING OF FISHERY RESOURCES IN SAMOA
E. Methodologies for monitoring fisheries
1. Selected methodologies for monitoring fisheries and their effectiveness and weaknessesFigure 8. Selling tuna at the market in Apia.
They estimate the weights of the catch from lengths, using a table of weight/length relationships for various types of fishes produced for similar studies in Fiji. The officers collect information on the economic value and effort (fishing hours, location, fuel consumption, number of crew, fishing methods, etc.) by interviewing sellers, proprietors of other outlets or from receipt books. Data are entered into the fishery ACCESS database. On each sampling day, data are summarised and entered and total landings estimated on a monthly basis and reviewed annually (Bell 1996).
By comparing the data on a yearly basis, the fishery team detects relative changes in fish stocks. For example, the 1994/95 season found slight increases in tuna and bottomfish at the fish market but a marked decrease in inshore fish landings. Marked decreases in inshore fish were also recorded in the Roadside and Retailers fishery product records (Bell 1996).
In some cases, changes in the recorded catches are explained by economic factors or the survey technique. For example, in the 1994/95 period the team detected a marked decrease in bottomfish landings in Savaii, but attributed this to the discontinuation of the export of bottomfish by the Savaii Fishermen's Association to Honolulu. They also found that the inshore fishery product landings in the 1994/1995 period showed an increase in Savaii but attributed this to including hotels in the survey coverage.
Business records and export records are also used to monitor fisheries. The Fisheries Division records exports of sea cucumbers (bech-der-mer) by species composition, weight and value and these data revealed a decline in several species from overfishing (Bell 1996).
In 1995, the Fisheries Division set up a certification of fishery products for export. The inspectors examine fishery products to be exported for compliance with terms and conditions and issue a Certification for Fishery Products for Export.
The system does not, however, account for fish exported by fishers taking their fishing vessels to nearby American Samoa and selling the product directly to the canneries. In American Samoa, prices for tuna are 2.5 times higher than in Apia and the market unlimited. In 1995/96, government figures showed a total catch of offshore species of less than 600 tonnes. The SPC Offshore Fisheries Programme, however, which collects regional statistical information on tuna, reported that one cannery in Pago Pago, American Samoa purchased 1,400 tonnes of albacore from Samoa in 1996. The quality of the catch was fair to poor due to lack of ice in the alia fishing boats
The fisheries management plans now existing in 16 Samoan villages include a list of actions required to protect the marine environment and increase fish catches. These include tasks for both the villagers and Fisheries Division officers. The tasks vary from village to village but some examples are:
FFA is the lead agency for facilitating fishing negotiations between its 16 South Pacific Island members and distant water fishing nations. They work closely with the OFP to co-ordinate an on-board observer programme called SUPERTRAMP and assure that catch and effort logbooks are passed to the OFP for statistical analysis. The OFP co-ordinates port sampling in 23 regional ports, conducts extensive tag and recapture programmes, and provides scientific information and advice.
In 1995 the OFP processed 11,216 logsheet records for fishing operations from 995 long liners, 88 pole-and-line vessels and 174 purse seiners. A GIS producing tables and maps of catch and effort data was developed in 1996 and helps data retrieval and policy decision making.
The Port Sampling Programme measures size and species composition of landed catches in the major fish receiving ports in the region. These data are fundamental for stock assessment and fishery interaction research. The amounts unloaded are useful to verify logsheet data and estimate annual catches. While Samoa is not one of these ports, Pago Pago is close by and catch data recorded there provides information of fish caught in Samoan waters.
In 1994, the Samoan Fisheries Division and the Police Maritime Wing conducted a patrol programme. During the period, six Taiwanese Long Line vessels licensed to fish in the Samoa's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under a bi-lateral agreement with Samoa, breached the terms and conditions of the agreement. The Surveillance Committee, which included representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries and Meteorology, Police Department and the Attorney General's Office, held a series of meetings and imposed a fine on the vessels. The vessel owners refused to pay the fine and their fishing licences were suspended. They were also struck from the Forum Fisheries Agency's Regional Registration upon Samoa's request (Bell 1996).
Australia and New Zealand Royal Air Forces provide Orian flights to assist the Samoan surveillance programme.
FFA had no part in the 1994 arrests of the 6 Taiwanese longliners described earlier, other than to remove the accused vessels from the registry when told to do so by Samoa. Those vessels were then forbidden from fishing anywhere within the FFA area. The FFA believes the situation might have been negotiated but Samoa did not want to do so. The infractions were, for the most part, minor and technical. The Samoan action resulted in the cancellation of licence fees from the entire Taiwanese fleet. This may have represented a loss of WS$280,000 per year in license fees.
Monitoring the movements of 1500 vessels in the Central Western Pacific is a difficult task. A new system is currently being installed called a regional vessel monitoring system (VMS). Satellite based tracking devices will provide regular position data of individual fishing vessels operating in the region. The system enables countries to identify the location of fishing vessels and monitor their movements in real-time. Eventually, the system will also provide catch and effort reporting in real-time and thus improve scientific monitoring of the fishing activities and stock movements. The new Vessel Monitoring System will greatly reduce the cost of monitoring the movements of fishing vessels and increase the accuracy of the data on ship movements in different EEZs (Cartwright 1997).