The U.S. Department of Commerce Fisheries Development Program in American Samoa took delivery of the first of four 37-foot by 14-foot catamaran longliner/deep drop fishing vessels headed to the South Pacific Island.

ACI Boats in Port Townsend, Washington won a $3 million dollar contract to build the four boats using the Super Alia design. “These are part of a project to help the fishermen in American Samoa, particularly Pago Pago, increase the quality of the fish they land, and sell to a wider market,” says Mia Reade Baylor, the sales and marketing coordinator at ACI. According to Reade Baylor, the Tautai Mua is an aluminum catamaran, powered by a pair of 195-hp Yanmar diesel engines. The boat’s electronics package is all Garmin: plotter, sounder, radar. The vessel has two fish holds of 75 cubic feet each, capable of holding an estimated 16,000 pounds of fish on ice.

“Empty, it can go 21 knots,” says Tony Langkilde, fisheries development project manager with the American Samoa Department of Commerce. “When it’s full, I guess around 9 knots.” Langkilde, a native of American Samoa, started working on the project in 2015, and after many delays finally welcomed the first boat to the islands on May 29. “She first touched the water on June 5,” he says. “Right now, I’m working on getting the federal permits to fish in the EEZ here, it should take around 30 days.”

Tony Langkilde looks on as Caleb Carlson of Port Townsend, Washington, demonstrates the workings of the Deep Drop Commercial ProFisher 1200 electric reel. Photo by Dept. of Commerce

Langkilde notes that the boat is equipped with a 12-mile longline system supplied by Lindgren-Pitman, and a pair of ProFisher 1200 electric reels supplied by Deep Drop Commercial in Australia.

“The boat will have a captain and three deckhands,” says Langkilde. “They’ll make 3-to-5-day trips. When they’re longlining, they’ll be targeting tuna, mostly albacore, with incidental catch of mahi-mahi, swordfish and other species. When they go out to fish deep, they’ll catch red snapper and other fish.”

But the Tautai Mua’s mission is more training than fishing, according to Langkilde. “Tautai Mua, has a meaning,” he says. “Tautai is a title of respect for a Samoan fisherman, and Mua means first because this is the first boat, and it will be producing fisherman as much as fish. This boat and the next three are part of this project, the other part is a training program and business incubator.” The training program will enroll 15 fishermen per semester, and teach them how to operate the new boats, Langkilde notes. “These boats are an upgrade from what we’re used to here,” he says. “Our fishermen need to learn how to use them.”

Langkilde hopes that the project will lead to a better developed local fishery for the seven islands of American Samoa, and their combined population of around 57,000.  He expects landings from the boats to supply local retail stores, restaurants and school lunch programs, with high quality fish. “We also hope to export about 20 percent of the catch as sashimi grade fish. We’re looking at markets in Hawaii and the West Coast,” he says.

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Paul Molyneaux is the Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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