Tri Marine still sees Am Samoa as Eastern Pacific hub for tuna production
Tri Marine International has not given up on its plan to have American Samoa be the eastern Pacific tuna hub of the region, and the company says its local operations will not be impacted with a plan by the Republic of Palau to ban commercial fishing in that country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The company, whose local operations include a fishing fleet and Samoa Tuna Processors (STP) Inc., also says their operations in Solomon Islands will not compete with American Samoa, whose main market is the U.S.
Tri Marine first revealed more than a year ago their wish to have the territory be a tuna hub, because of current cannery infrastructure, duty free export to the U.S. and an experienced local cannery workforce.
Speaking to reporters last Friday, the company’s CEO and chairman Renato Curto said American Samoa remains an important part of Tri Marine’s operation in the region as well as the importance of having the territory as a “hub of tuna production” for the eastern Pacific.
Tri Marine chief operations officer Joe Hamby added this is a “big idea” for the company, adding the idea is tuna caught in this region should be processed in the territory and then sent to the U.S.
“We’re trying to improve the quality of the tuna that’s offered in the United States; and we want that best quality tuna to come from American Samoa,” Hamby said. “American Samoa should be the hub for the boats that fish in this region, whether the boats fish in these waters, right around American Samoa, or the waters around the territory’s EEZ.”
Hamby pointed out American Samoa's EEZ is quite small and fishing boats that are catching the fish—or purse seiners that are catching fish— are not catching them in the waters of American Samoa.
“They are catching fish in the waters of the EEZ around American Samoa,” Hamby said, referring to the EEZ of smaller neighboring countries, which do not have infrastructure for major cannery operations.
“So there has to be a cooperation, a common goal of bringing the fish to American Samoa from the surrounding areas — places where they don’t have the infrastructure, they don’t have the population, or the water to support a large scale tuna processing facility like the one we’re building here,” he said.
“We see American Samoa being the hub for this region. We are able to tell the consumer where the tuna was processed and packed and how great the product is compared to other tuna that they have,” he said, adding that after their visit here, the company’s delegation heads to Solomon Islands, which is “an important hub for us on the western side of the Pacific.”
“The same strategy applies there [Solomon Islands] and I use that as an example of what we’re going to do here. We have a local cannery, a local fleet, making great quality product, going to great markets,” he said.
Hamby also pointed out the Solomon Islands doesn’t have the same duty advantage as American Samoa for the U.S. market, however the Solomon Islands “has a better duty advantage in Europe” where products produced in the Solomon Islands are exported.
Furthermore, “American Samoa depends on the U.S. market, [and] this plant is being built for the U.S. market,” he said.
Curto added the Samoa Tuna Processors operations are "a very important project for us and we are putting a lot of effort in that. Perhaps some people may think that we are going very slowly, but as we said from the beginning, ‘we want to do things right’. We want to create jobs that are going to be permanent.
“We intend to bring back value to a can of tuna… a better quality product for the American consumer,” he said.
PALAU FISHING BAN
During a news conference early this week at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the president of Palau, Tommy Esang Remengesau Jr., said his country will ban all commercial fishing in its territorial waters, declaring some 200 miles around Palau a marine sanctuary.
Remengesau is quoted by Radio Zealand International, saying once current fishing contracts with Japan, Taiwan and some private companies expire, only fishing by island residents and tourists will be allowed in Palau’s EEZ.
Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Tri Marine vice president of production, Dan Sullivan said the move by Palau is not expected to impact the Tri Marine fleet or the supply of tuna for STP.
“The Tri Marine fleet does not generally fish in the waters of Palau because of the long distance from our port in American Samoa; however, US flag purse seiners operating under the South Pacific Tuna Treaty have the right to fish in the EEZ of Palau under the terms of that treaty,” Sullivan said yesterday.
At the news conference in New York, the Palau president said his country would rely on the booming ecotourism industry which attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year, according to the UN news service, which also reports Remengesau hopes other countries would join him in taking action to protect the oceans.
“I have come to New York to say that the responsible way for us in the Pacific Islands is to have a really serious and sustainable approach to the oceans. We have no choice. It’s our way of life, our culture, our economy, our environment,” he said.