ASG and NOAA Engage in Collaborative Dialogue over proposed PRINMS
Governor Lemanu P. S. Mauga engaged in a productive and long-awaited conversation with Dr. Richard W. Spinrad, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere & NOAA Administrator, on August 4, 2023 via zoom and in person.
Other esteemed leaders in attendance were NOAA Assistant Secretary Jainey Bashivi, Director of the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Makeda Okolo, Bettilou Taylor American Samoa liaison in Washington D.C., NOAA Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Director Lauren Wenzel, Chief of Staff Loa Tuimavave Tauapai Laupola, Attorney General Fainuulelei Alailima-Utu, Department of Marine & Wildlife Resources (DMWR) Director Taotasi Archie Soliai, GO Chief Counsel Kristi Thaxton and GO Counsel Terry VanEaton, Lafaele Keniseli, and Superintendent of the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa Atuatasi-Lelei Peau.
The discussions centered around President Biden’s call to initiate a new National Marine Sanctuary around the Pacific Remote Islands and its potential impact on the local community and economy, particularly the vital canneries industry.
Acknowledging the importance of an open and inclusive dialogue, Governor Lemanu expressed appreciation for the opportunity to address concerns and share insights regarding the potential consequences of the proposed sanctuary.
"The livelihoods of over 2000 workers at the canneries are at stake," Governor Lemanu underscored.
"We wish to be part of a process that takes our perspective into account, which was lacking from the inception of the National Marines Sanctuary declaration."
In response, Dr. Spinrad conveyed his condolences and recognized the urgency of the matter. “I am personally dedicated to ensuring that the right steps are taken moving forward," he stated.
"We understand the economic significance of the canneries to your region. We are working to gather scientific and economic information to make informed decisions. We are dedicated to ensuring an inclusive and consistent process, not only for American Samoa but also for CNMI and Guam."
Governor Lemanu expressed gratitude for the newfound dialogue, highlighting the importance of a cooperative approach. "I want to thank NOAA for their time and attention today," he commented.
"This is a step forward in finding common ground and ensuring a prosperous future for our people and our economy." Assistant Secretary Bashivi expressed the importance of having the right information on both ends before making decisions on how to execute the President’s initiative.
“This initiative has started with the President’s call, and we are now working backwards to ensure that we are inclusive of the Pacific Islands as well as their and the concerns,” stated Bashivi.
She continued, “We want to host a workshop in American Samoa and have that dialogue with your government and your people.”
The meeting between Governor Lemanu and DOC-NOAA representatives signifies a significant step towards addressing concerns and fostering collaboration between the American Samoa Government and NOAA.
NOAA has also stated that they have transmitted all correspondence that was sent by the leaders of the Pacific Territories, including the report from Assistant Secretary Kelly Kryc who was in American Samoa earlier this year.
As the discussions continue, both parties remain dedicated to exploring solutions that balance the preservation of the marine ecosystem with the economic well-being of the local community.