Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



American Samoans have been harvesting pelagic fish since the islands were settled some 3,500 years ago. Longline fishing, in which miles of line containing baited hooks are set and then retrieved after approximately 24 hours, is a relatively recent fishing method in the Territory. Today it accounts for nearly all pelagic landings and is a multi-million dollar industry. Most participants in the longline fishery were indigenous American Samoans fishing out of small, locally built catamarans called alias. Over the past decade, however, the fishery has seen a massive increase in the number of larger foreign monohull vessels while small vessel/indigenous participation has dwindled to near zero. The decline in the small boat fleet may have negative socio-cultural and economic consequences for the American Samoa fishing community. Using information collected from federal and Territory records, as well as relevant literature, I analyzed existing data to identify trends in critical economic elements of the fishery, such as catch rates, fishing effort, and revenue, and examined how each element may have impacted small vessel/indigenous participation. In addition, I conducted fieldwork in American Samoa to gather a local perspective through six interviews and one group interview with indigenous fishermen and local residents. The purpose of this thesis is to comprehensively understand the factors that have contributed to the collapse of the alia longline fishery by analyzing fishermen perspectives with quantitative data trends. Further, I discuss possible next steps that fishermen, resource managers, and the American Samoa territory government are looking to take to revitalize local participation in pelagic fisheries.