Request made for access to Council-funded dock at former STP cannery

fili@samoanews.com

Last week’s 171st Meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council hosted by American Samoa, revealed that the Council provided financial assistance for the construction of a small longline dock at Tri Marine International’s Samoa Tuna Processors (STP) cannery at Atu’u.

The Council approved during the meeting a resolution, which directs Council staff to send a letter requesting Tri Marine to allow American Samoa longline vessels access to the small dock.

Before voting on the STP dock recommendations, a question was raised as to the kind of access the Council is asking for, and American Samoa's member on the Council, Christinna Lutu-Sanchez said this was discussed at last month’s meeting of the American Samoa Advisory Panel, one of the advisory committees for the Council.

During the discussions, it was noted that “federal funds” were allocated to build the small longline dock — at the corner of the STP dock — and it was for the purpose of receiving local boats, Lutu-Sanchez explained.

“So we were hoping that there’s some allowance to open up that area or give access so the boats can dock there — if there is a need to go there — when there is limited dock space [at the main dock],” she added.

Another American Samoa member on the Council, Va’amua Henry Sesepasara, who is also the Department of Marine and Wildlife director, added that the “Council financed that dock and I think the Council should ask for a relief for the longliners to take this space.”

The American Samoa Advisory Panel report to the Council shows that during the discussion, members felt that the dock should be made available to local boats. And since TriMarine was no longer providing local jobs, they should open the dock for use by fishing boats.

No additional information was made available at last week’s meeting.

COUNCIL REPLY

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, the Council said in a statement yesterday that Tri Marine refurbished the former site of COS Samoa Packing at a cost of over $70 million. Additionally, Tri Marine built a new fresh/frozen plant, reclaimed land, constructed a new seawall and added a small vessel dock that would support valued added fresh/frozen fish processing for export markets.

“Up to that point, the last time fresh fish export was conducted from small vessels in the Territory was in the late 1980s when bottomfish fishermen were sending fresh fish to Honolulu,” the Council said.

In 2014, the “Council contributed a small amount of fisheries development grant funds — $50,000 — towards the small vessel dock, fresh fish training workshops, vessel demonstrations, seafood handling instruction, etc.”

“At the time, STP’s new fresh fish/frozen processing area was a new opportunity for small vessels and coincided with the other fisheries development projects ongoing in the Territory such as the Manu’a Fishermen Cooperatives,” it says.

TRI MARINE RESPONSE

Responding to Samoa News questions, Tri Marine spokesman Mark Fox explained that Tri Marine/STP and the Council collaborated in the beginning stages of STP’s refurbishment of the facility with respect to small vessel fisheries development.

He said the Council and STP entered into a funding agreement whereby the Council “contributed a nominal amount” for the small vessel dock and for developing small scale fresh fish fisheries in American Samoa for export markets.

“The funding was disbursed mostly for developing the fresh fish fishery including fresh fish training workshops held in 2014,” Fox said yesterday. “At the time, STP was developing a new fresh fish processing plant within the facility.”

“The original intent was for the Council to contribute a much more significant amount for the project but Tri Marine decided against doing so to avoid misconceptions about the ownership of the dock or the rights to use it,” he said, adding that US “Homeland Security restrictions, safety and plant security issues were cited as factors in this decision and continue to present day.”

STP STATUS

The Council also approved another recommendation last week directing staff to send a letter to Tri Marine to provide a status update on their facility and operations in American Samoa after STP shut down production last December.

“We cannot provide a comment at this time about the future of STP,” said Fox when asked about the status of STP and its future plans.

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