11 Dec 2013

American Samoa chief suspected of collecting sea cucumbers for export

5:26 am on 11 December 2013

It's suspected that a chief on the Manu'a islands in American Samoa may have been behind an operation to collect sea cucumbers for export.

For the first time, a six month moratorium has been placed on the taking and removing of sea cucumbers in American Samoa, and its Exclusive Economic Zone.

This comes after fishery officials reported reefs being stripped bare of the species, with bucketloads collected to sell to Asian businesses for export.

Our correspondent in American Samoa, Monica Miller, says there were reports from the Manu'a islands that a chief had brought in a group of mainly Filipinos to harvest the sea-cucumbers.

"This chief, we are not naming him at this stage because we haven't had a chance to talk to him. But apparently he was behind an operation that was set up in Manu'a to collect sea cucumbers mainly for export."

Monica Miller says when the village council got wind of what he was doing, they put a stop to it.

She says the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources will be aggressive against anyone breaking the ban on removing sea cucumber in the territory.