More than a dozen higher education institutions and federal and local fishery management agencies and organizations in American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Hawaii have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at building the capacity of the U.S. Pacific Island territories to manage their fisheries and fishery-related resources.

Signatories include the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, the University of Hawaii at Hilo, the University of Hawaii Manoa’s Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology, Hawaii Pacific University, American Samoa Community College, the University of Guam, Northern Marianas College, the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, the Guam Department of Agriculture, the CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources, the NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office, the NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.

The partners will work together to achieve four goals. The first is to identify and recruit students from the territories/commonwealth who are interested in a career in fishery science and/or management. Students must also commit to being employed at a fishery-related local agency in the territories/commonwealth. Employees in the local fishery agencies who need or want to enhance their education and training in fishery science/management will be identified and recruited.

A second goal is to help the identified students/employees be successful in their educational endeavors. This assistance includes supporting and improving course articulation of fishery-related academic programs and courses among the above education institutions. Students will also receive help addressing tuition and other education-related financial needs through existing financial assistance and established federal education programs.

A fellowship/scholarship program will be developed that will require students to work in a fisheries-related agency in the territories or commonwealth. And students will receive effective, ongoing advising and mentoring from both the college/university and the home territory/commonwealth.

The third goal is to support and encourage the development of curricula, permanent courses, programs and faculty positions for fisheries at the undergraduate and/or graduate level, and of online fishery training and internships. Goal number four is to assist, support and encourage local fishery-related agencies in employing these students in the Territories/Commonwealth.

The Western Pacific council’s Education Committee, as directed by the council at its March 2014 meeting, drafted the memorandum of understanding. The Education Steering Committee will meet in October to work on an implementation plan. Implementation of the four goals is scheduled to begin with the 2015 academic year.

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