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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Samoa

For over twenty years, Samoa’s government has promoted environmental awareness and conservation measures in Samoa with campaigns encouraging community participation and engagement. Links between health and environment also address economic, social and environment resilience and sustainable development activities. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) is working with Conservation International to review the major scientific findings of their project on improving the resilience of upland forests of Samoa to climate change.

Featured Legislation

1979: The Pesticide Act was passed. This Act was administered by the Director of the Department of Agriculture. Sections 4 to 9 set out powers of the Director. The Director is authorized, after due notice and an opportunity for a hearing, to: (1) declare as a pest any form of plant or animal life (other than man and other than bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms on or in living man or other living animals) which is injurious to health or the environment; (2) determine which pesticides, and quantities of substances contained in pesticides, may cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment. The Director shall be guided by the Environment Protection Agency Regulations in this determination. The Director is authorized, after due notice, to adopt appropriate rules as necessary for the enforcement and administration of this chapter. No individual may use or supervise the use of any restricted use pesticide unless the individual is a certified applicator; provided, that a competent individual who is not a certified applicator may use a restricted use pesticide under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. Applicators may be commercial applicators or private applicators. Restrictions may be placed on the sale of pesticides.

1990: The American Samoa Coastal Management Act was signed. This Act provides for the establishment of coastal management programs and the designation of coastal zones and special management areas and related matters. The American Samoa Coastal Management Program (ASCMP) is established as an office within the Executive branch. The Office of Development Planning shall be the designated territorial agency, as required by federal law, for the administration and implementation of the Program. The general purpose of ASCMP is to provide effective resource management by protecting, maintaining, restoring, and enhancing the resources of the coastal zone. To achieve this purpose, specified areas shall receive special protection, strategies to cope with coastal hazards shall be developed, and activities affecting coastal zones shall be monitored and regulated (sect. 4). A land use permit shall be required for all uses, developments, or activities which impact the coastal zone (sect. 5). The Office of Development Planning holds exclusive authority to designate uses subject to land use permit requirements, and to approve land use permit applications. The Director of Development Planning shall have the power to issue “stop orders" and to adopt rules deemed necessary for the implementation of this Chapter (sects. 6 and 7). It shall be prohibited to fill, make deposits on, or in any manner create or attempt to create, artificial land, or augment or add to the natural shoreline of any coastal area without a land use permit or in violation of a permit. There is established an Environmental Restoration Fund that shall be used to further the monitoring, enforcement, hazard mitigation, and environmental restoration duties of the ASCMP.

1991: The American Samoa Soil and Water Conservation District Act was approved. This Act declares that it shall be the public policy of American Samoa and the purpose of this Chapter to promote soil and water conservation by creating a Soil and Water Conservation District to advise on methods of preventing erosion, and protecting and improving water quality. The Conservation District shall work in cooperation with other American Samoan government agencies to conserve, develop and use the soil and water resources of the Territory in order to control and prevent soil erosion, prevent flooding, and to protect and improve water quality of both surface and underground waters. A Conservation District Board is established. Powers and duties of the District and the Board are set out in section 6. Section 7 provides that the District and Board shall not interfere with the Samoan traditional land ownership system.

2003: The Water Authority Act was approved. This Act continues the Water Authority established by the Water Authority Act 1993/1994 as the Samoa Water Authority. It shall be managed by a Board of Directors. The Authority shall produce and supply water, encourage and require the responsible use of Samoa’s water resources, assist in protecting, managing and conserving Samoa’s water resources, identify new sources of water, assist in the formulation of national policies relating to the use and control of Samoa’s water resources and carry out other functions as defined in section 9. Powers of the Authority, in particular in respect of construction of waterworks and abstraction of water, are set out in section 10. Any interest in land acquired by the Government under the Taking of Land Act 1964 for the purposes of this Act may be vested in the Authority. Water supply services and other activities of the Authority are regulated by sections 21 and following. The Authority shall set standards for water supplied but the Director General of Health may set standards for the quality of water supply equipment.

2010: The Waste Management Act was created. This Act makes provision for the collection, management, recycling and disposal of waste in Samoa. For these purposes, the Act makes provision for the designation of waste management service areas by the Minister and for the designation of approved waste management operators by the Ministry. The Act also requires a permit to be obtained for dumping and incineration of wastes at sea and provides for community involvement in waste management.

2015: The Sea Cucumber Fisheries Management and Development Plan was established.  The Samoa Sea Cucumber Management and Development Plan is a national policy with a sectoral approach. The purposes of this Plan are to provide for biologically and economically sustainable development, to establish an effective and enforceable management structure, recommendations and measures governing the exploitation and optimum utilization of Samoa’s sea cucumber fishery, and to maintain the sea cucumber’s cultural and traditional importance. The Fisheries Division carries out activities to promote the conservation, management and development of the fisheries of Samoa; the exploitation of living resources of the fishery waters; scientific research; and the protection and preservation of the marine environment.

2020: The Climate Change Policy was brought into force. Samoa Climate Change Policy is a national policy with a cross-sectoral approach. The objectives of this Policy are: (I) strengthened framework and support systems for effective response to climate change impacts, (II) implementation of adaptation measures against the impacts of climate change, (III) implementation of mitigation measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, (IV) sustainable financing mechanisms, (V) integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation into national planning, implementation and monitoring processes, (VI) improved data and information management on climate change for informed decision making, (VII) strengthened and effective coordination and representation at the national, regional and international level, and (VIII) capacity building on the impacts of climate change.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • With May being Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the United States Government honors and celebrates all people of AAPI heritage who have enriched the history and culture of the United States. Communities with ties to Samoa lament a centuries-long history of imperial and colonial rule. The United States seized many islands, one of which was Samoa, in the late 19th century and turned these countries into prime locations for attacking the Japanese during WWII. However, ammunition and chemicals from the war were released, dumped and stored on the islands, leaving a legacy of contamination, pollution and ecological destruction. Today, toxic remnants continue to impact Samoa, poisoning the health of local populations. Air, water, and solid waste pollution exceeded legal limits using 2013-2017 information from the EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History online database. U.S. military sites have also wreaked havoc in American Samoa, a region with fewer active military bases than Guam. According to historians, the U.S. stored fuels at a military installation that today is the site of Pago Pago Elementary School. The soil and groundwater are still contaminated with fuel compounds and heavy metals including lead, barium and mercury. Fuel compounds have been known to cause respiratory problems and decrease immune function. Lead poisoning has increased near Pago Pago, negatively affecting children’s brain development, IQ and behavior.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment: