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Solomon Island, Fijian and Papua New Guinean fisheries observers are now home after being repatriated from American Samoa this week.

Some of them had been away from home since December last year.

The nine Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Observers disembarked from United States fishing boats in Pago Pago over the past several weeks. They are now being quarantined in their home countries.

The FFA says the repatriation exercise was financed by the American Tunaboat Association (ATA) member vessel owners.

A tenth PNG observer disembarked in Honolulu and transited through California and Brisbane, before arriving in Port Moresby this week.

In March, the FFA temporarily suspended the requirement for 100% observer coverage on all Purse Seine Vessels in the WCPO. The temporary suspension also calls for vessel operators to repatriate observers that were on their vessels.

Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said “FFA is sincerely grateful to the ATA Executive Director and its members for the hard work with the relevant national observer programmes and the FFA Secretariat to ensure the safe return of our observers.” 

“The extraordinary situation we’re all faced with calls for closer cooperation, and this is a great example of this,” she added. 

ATA Executive Director, William Gibbons-Fly said while repatriating the observers had been a considerable challenge, they received very strong support from American Samoan government and officials.

Other observers have already returned home, including a Marshall Islands observer who was finally dropped off in Majuro after going all the way to Mexico and back – a journey lasting several weeks. 

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