America Samoa's coral reefs overfished
June 11, 1999
Web posted at: 3:12 p.m. EDT (1912 GMT)
The panel recommended that the use of scuba gear should be prohibited for fishing in the territory of America Samoa.
A scientific panel concluded recently that America Saomoa's coral reefs are overfished and called for an immediate, full recovery plan to restore the depleted nearshore fish stocks.
The finding was made by the American Samoa Coral Reef Task Force, a panel of local agency representatives and scientists who met in America Samoa last month. They said that there was ample scientific evidence to support their findings and that delay for further research was unwarranted.
The conclusion is based on 20 studies, mostly conducted by the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources and backed by research in Fagatele National Marine Sanctuary and the National Park of American Samoa.
The evidence includes systematic surveys of nearshore fishery catches in the territory, scientific assessments of resource abundance on local reefs, 100 interviews with local fishermen and elders in 50 villages and data reviews.
The evidence documents that key resources, such as giant clams and parrotfish are overfished and there is heavy fishing pressure on surgeonfish. The research also found fewer and smaller groupers, snappers, atule and sea turtles. Seventy percent of the villagers interviewed believed that fishing was not as good as it had been in years past.
The scientists said they were a bit confused by these findings, as the coral habitats in America Samoa have finally grown back from the damages they suffered during Hurricane Val in 1992 and Ofa in 1990.
The scientists identified overfishing as a key factor causing the decline. In particular, the panel felt that the fish were not able to withstand the increased fishing pressure caused by the underwater scuba gear used by spear fishermen in all fisheries.
The panel recommended that the use of scuba gear while fishing should be prohibited in the territory, as it has been banned at other locations in the tropical Pacific and Caribbean, for example, Australia's Great Barrier Reef and French Polynesia.
The panel further said that a full recovery plan for the fisheries should include the following measures:
- A network of marine protected areas to allow fish to recover, reproduce and re-seed overfished areas.
- Community-based fisheries management, whereby villages determine how they will manage their own catches.
- Monitoring the complete harvest of coral reef fish and invertebrates.
- Better enforcement of existing fisheries regulations.
Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
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