Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Media Release.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) have reported three men were taken into custody after what has been described as a “sting operation”.
In a sting operation, authorities create an opportunity for someone to commit a crime, and when someone does, they are caught and prosecution follows.
It is confirmed that 34 undersized crabs were seized and 3 men were taken into custody after carrying out a sting operation outside the Lucky Foodtowm supermarket last Saturday 30th October 2021.
According to Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the Fisheries Division, Magele Etuati Ropeti, their Monitoring, Control, Surveillance and Enforcement Unit (MCSE) had been preparing for the operation three weeks prior to carrying out the sting, after receiving several reports from the public regarding the sale of undersized fish, as well as information collected during the Ministry’s regular site monitoring checks.
“After gathering all the information we assess and plan out how we will address the issues depending on the locations,” said Magele. “The operation we carried out last Saturday morning had been planned in collaboration with the Police over 3 weeks after receiving reports from concerned members of the public regarding locations that sell small sized marine life, especially crabs.”
“A team of nine fisheries officers and four police officers confronted 3 seafood vendors displaying 34 undersized crabs for sale outside the centrally located supermarket..
“The vendors were taken into custody for questioning by Fisheries Investigative Officers (IO) and are now under investigation with their cases pending review by MAF’s legal division”.
Senior Fisheries Officer, Tologata Leilua who led the operation said it was disappointing to find a significant number of undersized mudcrabs commonly known as pa’a limago being sold in direct violation of the Local Fisheries Regulation 1995 (part 6) which prohibits fishing, selling or handling of crabs under 15cm.
“We confiscated 34 undersized and soft shell crabs which is a very big number,” said Tologata. “Continued harvesting and fishing of undersized mudcrabs or any fish without allowing them to grow, multiply and thrive puts this highly valued resource at risk as well as the future sustainability of our food supply. This is why we reinforce these laws and work in partnership with the police to inform and educate fishers and vendors why it’s important to identify and release young crabs or fish back into the sea.”
Tologata said he was thankful the operation was a success and the team achieved their target objectives safely and credits their partnership with the police in ensuring the safety of all parties involved.
“Our team are made up of both experienced and new staff from the fisheries division. These types of operations help boost experience not only for the senior staff who have been here for many years but also for those that have just entered the workforce.”
“‘We also make sure our staff are safe before and during the operation and I’m pleased to say it was a successful operation. We want to thank our colleagues from the Samoa Police for their assistance in securing our operation and ensuring everything goes smoothly. We are grateful no one was harmed and that we achieved what we set out to do,” said Tologata.
According to the Fisheries ACEO, MAF will continue to aggressively enforce fisheries regulations to deter illegal fishing and selling and the public are advised to abide by fisheries laws and report any suspected illegal fishing activity.
“Depending on the offence, fishers and vendors can expect a fine of up to WST$10,000 – it’s not worth the risk,” says Magele. “It’s an absolute must that fishers are aware of the impacts of taking undersized fish for now and the future. The Ministry is also sending a strong message today that catching undersized fish and shellfish is against the law and is not worth it. If you see any suspected illegal fishing activity, please report it by calling 20369 or 20005. All reports are confidential and help protect and preserve Samoa’s fish resources for future generations.”