Fish deliveries remain a challenge to StarKist Samoa

Says the local longliner fleet is an important supplier to cannery
fili@samoanews.com

Supply of fish remains a challenge for StarKist Samoa, which hopes that things will improve before year’s end or into the new year, says cannery executive Taotasi Archie Soliai, who is one of American Samoa’s three members on the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

Taotasi gave a brief update on the cannery industry during yesterday’s second day of the Council’s 171st meeting at the Gov. Rex Lee Auditorium. He noted that the news media had already publicized the 5-week shutdown starting this Saturday, Oct. 21st, with production to resume Nov. 27th.

During the shutdown, there will be some upgrades to the facility along with installation of new equipment, he said and then shared with the Council that the fish deliveries to the cannery continue to be a challenge.

He recalled that StarKist recently shutdown production for one-week due to fish supply shortages. “So a lot of that volatility to the cannery industry continues to remain and we’re hopeful that will improve towards the end of the year and into next year,” he said.

“The traditional contract vessels that StartKist has, continues to be the main suppliers to the cannery” since Tri Marine International closed last December its Samoa Tuna Processors cannery and Tri Marine vessels have been redirected and “are now fishing in other waters.”

Taotasi believes that Tri Marine currently has one US flagged purse seiner vessel that homeports and delivers here and that is the Cape Elizabeth. Therefore, he said 9 of the 10 Tri Marine vessels are no longer StarKist suppliers. “So that affected the supply [chain] but our Procurement office has worked on finding other sources, other suppliers to fulfill our needs.”

Taotasi also shared an update on the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification assessment of the U.S longliner fleet based in American Samoa. StarKist Co., announced mid December 2016 that it would invest in the local US flagged longline fleet, which is also a supply source for StarKist Samoa cannery, so the fishing vessels can achieve MSC certification.

According to a Council staff report early this year, the MSC assessment is conducted by United Kingdom-based ME Certification Ltd, on behalf of StarKist. It says there are 14 active longline vessels in American Samoa that have signed on to be vessels under the Unit of Certification.

If certified, it is expected that 100 percent of the MSC certified product landed by the American Samoa longline vessels would be canned in Pago Pago and sold in US markets.

Speaking yesterday to the Council, Taotasi said 100% of the longline albacore catch is delivered to the cannery, “and they are our main supplier for our operation and it’s very important that we sustain this fishery, in order that supply is uninterrupted.”

“Although it’s a small fraction of the total albacore that we receive at the plant, it’s still very important to the cannery,” he said.

Christinna Lutu-Sanchez of Longline Service and the other American Samoa member on the Council said, the longline fleet based in Pago Pago is anticipating “great results” from the MSC certification, and thanked the Council for their support on the project.

BACKGROUND

Samoa News should point out that this is the same longline fleet — based in American Samoa — the local government is opposing re fishing rights in the Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA).

Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga said in his opening remarks to the Council on Tuesday that he plans to take the Territory’s case all the way to the “highest court in the land” referring to the US Supreme Court. (See story in Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017 issue)

His remarks are in response to the US National Marine Fisheries Service appealing a Honolulu federal court decision that invalidates the 2016 rule, which reduced from 50 to 12 miles, the LVPA in American Samoa waters. The appeal is filed in the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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