Workers, business owners and political leaders are voicing opposition to a proposal to double the size of the protected marine area near America Samoa, reports Benar News.
“I have seven children between the ages of two and 17, they are all in school, and I have been supporting my family working for StarKist Samoa,” Tanielu Malae, the sole breadwinner for his family, said at the May 25 hearing. “Do the people in Hawaii that made this proposal know what it is like for people like us that did not have proper education if we lose our jobs.”
Most of the opposition appears to be coming from the tuna industry which fears loss of as many as 5,000 jobs and a decline in the economy.
Among those to testify at a public hearing was American Samoa’s Lieutenant Governor Talauega Eleasalo Ale. He said he came as an individual and not as a representative of the government.
“What you are doing is unnecessary and it is painful and mean because you are not gaining anything extra by this proposition, but you are hurting us and cannery workers in this room that live off this land and rely on the fish that is coming from those islands,” he said. “If you really believe that we are your brothers and sisters you have to let this go.”
However, an analysis conducted by researchers at the University of Santa Barbara found that tuna fishermen rarely fish in the area the expansion of the sanctuary would protect.
Honolulu Civil Beat reports researchers found the tuna fishing fleets over the last five years have spent just 4 percent of their time in the protected areas around Howland and Baker islands as well as Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll.
“The fishing industry should embrace these marine protected areas because the science and numbers show that they help, not hinder, their fishing efforts,” Pacific Remote Islands Coalition member Rick Gaffney said in the statement to Civil Beat.
PRI has been lobbying for a decade for an expansion of the protected area.
According to Benar News, the total area would be 770,000 square miles compared to 495,000 square miles now.
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