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Ecological Characterization of American Samoa's Small-Scale Alia Albacore Longline Fishery

Progress Reports (PDF): SOEST-JIMAR report, FY 2004

Project Overview
This project will attempt to characterize the alia-style of longline fishing occurring within 50 nautical miles (nm) of American Samoa. Project researchers want to determine the type and frequency of species caught in association with albacore tuna, the main target of this catamaran-style fishery. Key fishery management questions have arisen about the performance of this small-scale segment of the fishery in terms of the potential for fish by-catch, interactions with protected species and gear conflict with larger monohull longline vessels also fishing in this region. In addition, little is known about the movements of albacore caught in this fishery and about the relationships with albacore caught in the offshore segment outside of 50 nm and also within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Independent Samoa where a substantially greater number of small-scale longliners currently operate.

American Samoa's longline fishery targets albacore tuna for sale to local canners. This fishery differs from the Hawaii-based longline fishery in having two discrete components based on vessel size and fishing technology: small-scale vessels (mostly alia) less than 40-ft in length and larger monohull vessels, mostly over 50-ft in length. The number of longline permits issued increased from 1 permit issued in 1995 to 78 permits issued by March 2002. The small-scale alia fleet comprises about 44 vessels holding general longline permits accounting for approximately one-third of the total longline fishing effort in American Samoa's EEZ during 2001.

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) plans to establish a shipboard observer program for American Samoa-based longline vessels. Shipboard observers are considered the most reliable source of data on the incidental catch of non-target fish species. While federal observers can be accommodated on the larger-scale longline vessels the cabins of most alia vessels are extremely small and do not often have formal cooking and sleeping facilities. And since most alia vessels are comprised of three-person crews even replacing one crewmember with a federal observer staff person would not be feasible. An observer would not be part of the working crew and a shorthanded crew would not be able to conduct typical fishing practices, thus invalidating whatever might be documented. The small-scale nature of the alia fishery calls for alternative approaches to the federal observer program.

Project researchers will contract an alia boat and utilize a specially trained crew of local professional fishermen to conduct and help document 160 alia-style longline sets and ecological characterizations of the fishing environment. The fishing areas will be those typically fished by the American Samoa alia longline fishing fleet within 50 nm of Tutuila. It is hoped that this effort will complement a conventional NMFS observer program more suited to the larger longline vessels. Researchers also intend to experiment with different soak times and techniques to increase the catch of albacore that are vigorous enough to endure tag and release. Efforts will be made to evaluate methods suggested by local fishermen to improve the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of future albacore studies.

Proposed project activities:

  1. Contract alia vessel and crew
  2. Prepare bilingual forms for data collection, entry and analysis
  3. Field test American Samoa data forms
  4. Training of fishermen in data collection and research protocol
  5. Conduct alia-style research longline sets
  6. Shoreside data collection
  7. Data management
  8. Experimental alia-style longline sets
  9. Ecological characterization of the alia-style longline sets
  10. Recommendations for future albacore tagging studies
  11. Discussion of feasibility of a long-term alia fishery monitoring system

Funding for this 1-year project to be available late 2002.


Principal Investigators:
Dr. John Kaneko and Mr. Paul Bartram
Pacific Management Resources, Inc.
(PacMar, Inc.)
3615 Harding Ave., #408-409
Honolulu, Hawaii 96816 USA
Phone (808) 735-2602
FAX (808) 7354-2315
email: pacusa@pixi.com
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This page updated August 22, 2006