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Fagatogo Fish Market tenant exports first shipment to the US

Island Fisheries Market

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Commerce Department finally has a tenant operating the Fish Market, inside the Fagatogo Marketplace, and the company has already exported its first fish shipment to the US.

The Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council had raised in past meetings the Fish Market, which at one point had a tenant, but the local organization later withdrew due to concerns over the cost of leasing the facility.

The Council assisted in providing funds for the construction of the Fish Market in 2009, working with DOC to create a space in town, and renovation was carried out in 2014. According to the Council, the market construction was part of its larger development initiative for the small boat fishery of American Samoa.

During last week’s three-day 178th Council meeting in Honolulu - which was live streamed - the Council’s American Samoa island coordinator Nate Ilaoa provided an update on the Fish Market, which is under a 2-year lease to Island Fisheries Inc.

Responding to Samoa News questions, DOC director Keniseli Lafaele said the lease started Dec. 1, 2018 and ends Nov. 30, 2020

Island Fisheries is open daily and “aims to buy fish from local boats…package and export to Hawaii and Japan markets,” he said.

In his presentation, which covered various American Samoa issues relating to fisheries, Ilaoa said Island Fisheries is “relatively new” and the company started selling fish fillets and other added value products in April.

He explained that when the Fish Market opens, it’s always jam-packed, routinely selling out before noon.

“Their issue has been getting enough fish to stay open longer and to expand their operation. All of the fish that they purchase have come from American Samoa longline vessels,” he continued.

He then revealed that it was last month that Island Fisheries sent to Hawaii its first shipment of fish export to the US - a shipment of about 2500 pounds of tuna that was purchased from Honolulu-based fishing vessel Sea Hawk, which was in Pago Pago to fulfill its obligation requirement to land fish in America Samoa.

According to Ilaoa, the Island Fisheries shipment was the first time the Hawaiian Airlines cold storage facility at the Tafuna Airport was ever used. “So those things are good news,” he said, while referring to some photos which Island Fisheries manager Dustin Show and his family.

Ilaoa described the new operation by Island Fisheries as “very much growing in popularity.”

Commenting on the new fish market operator, Council chairman, Archie Soliai (one of the three American Samoa members on the Council) said, “I think that’s got a lot of potential to grow.”

He continued, “It’s a long time coming to see that space being utilized. And we’re happy to say, we’re looking towards the future.”