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Fish stock arrives: StarKist begins canning Cook Islands fish

fili@samoanews.com

The first fish stock shipment to StarKist Samoa to be canned as a tuna product for the Cook Islands arrived in the territory more than a week ago and Gov. Togiola Tulafono is pleased that his venture with the Cook Islands is now moving ahead.

StarKist Samoa's plan to pack a canned tuna product for the Cook Islands was first revealed in a news release from the governor’s office while Togiola was in Rarotonga two weeks ago attending the Polynesian Leaders Group and the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meetings.

The release states that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the governor and the Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources to begin shipments of Albacore tuna to Starkist Samoa for processing under the label “Cook Islands Golden Tuna,” which will be produced for the Cook Islands and Asia markets.

The MOU also pledges mutual cooperation between American Samoa and the Cook Islands  in the development, management and conservation of fisheries.

Speaking on his weekend radio program, the governor said part of the MOU is his effort to attract Cook Island based fishing vessels to off load fish in American Samoa for tuna canning, and also pushing that country’s fishing vessels to be serviced at the government owned shipyard, purchase fuel sold here, and purchase other goods sold in the territory for crew members.

He said Cook Islands is pleased with this MOU especially on fuel, because fuel and supply costs are lower here. Based on information provided by the Cook Islands government, Togiola said  American Samoa’s diesel fuel for fishing vessels is about 30% lower than in the Cook Islands.

Another part of the MOU deals with the establishment of a Cook Island government office in the territory dealing with fishery matters, and the office will be staffed by that government’s representative, who will also assist in any matters that surface in the territory dealing with Cook island vessels and/or crew members to ensure that any issues can be quickly  referred to their local representative, said Togiola.

And the most important issue, under this MOU, is that StarKist Samoa has been selected to can tuna products for the Cook Islands and this will be the first time that a product made here will be exported to a foreign country, he said, adding that the U.S. has always been the market for local canned tuna products.

He said it was more than a week ago that the first fish shipment arrived in the territory from the Cook Islands for the canned tuna product. He hopes that this venture with the Cook Islands will attract attention from other neighboring Pacific countries such as Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Vanuatu and Nauru, to off-load their fish stock here and have them packed at the local canneries.

He said this will further increase employment opportunities for the territory  and this is the best time for this venture with the Cook Islands and any other Pacific country, because the minimum wage hike has been postponed till 2015.

He said this is also evidence that can be presented to Congress that federal law should be flexible when it comes to economic development issues, because in the end it will benefit the territory, instead of federal laws forced on American Samoa that would have serious economic implications.



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