Shortage of fish supply again shutting down cannery production
Due to “fish supply shortages” StarKist Samoa, the largest private employer in the territory, is shutting down production next week and will resume once additional delivery of fish is made, according to StarKist Co., owner and operator of the local cannery.
“We will share more details as they become available,” StarKist corporate spokesperson, Michelle Faist said.
In a brief statement issued yesterday afternoon, StarKist confirmed that StarKist Samoa would shut down operations during the week of August 21st, “as a result of fish-supply shortages.”
“We recognize this shut down is a disruption to our workers and the community, and appreciate everyone’s understanding,” the statement noted. “At this time, the StarKist Samoa plant is expected to re-open after additional deliveries are made to the plant.”
The statement comes as Samoa News received reports early this week from industry officials about the possible StarKist shutdown this month due to a fish supply shortage.
Asked if StarKist is expecting any vessels calling into port soon with fish supply, Faist said “our fish procurement team is working on that now” and she hopes to have an update sometime next week.
Samoa News notes that anytime there is a shutdown of a cannery — which employs some 2,000 workers — it not only has a major affect on its workforce, but also companies providing support services.
The Governor’s Office confirmed that they received notification of the shutdown due to the shortage of fish.
FISH SHORTAGES AND STARKIST
During the week of Oct. 10th last year, and also in 2015, StarKist shut down production for the same reason: fish-supply shortage.
Faist said at the time that limited freezer capability and the lack of space to expand the freezer have negatively impacted the company’s operational efficiency over the years.
She said the issue is further amplified due to fewer deliveries of fish now being made to American Samoa as a result of the closure of the high seas, US EEZs, and other traditional fishing grounds to the U.S. fishing fleets.
Since the Togiola Administration, StarKist has been trying to secure land for additional freezer storage facility space and just recently, they were offered land in Satala that was occupied by the old Satala power plant after the Lolo Administration denied the company’s request for space at the ASG owned shipyard facility — also in Satala.
Last month, the company’s Seafood Procurement director, Cary Gann wrote to US Secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke, in response to the federal agency’s request for public comments following President Trump’s executive order earlier this year in May, calling for a review of land and marine monument designations by former US Presidents, going back to 1996.
He said American Samoa has historically been an attractive location to process tuna due to a reliable, steady supply of high quality whole tuna directly delivered from the U.S. tuna purse seine fleet operating in the Western Central Pacific fishing grounds.
However, he said this “main advantage has been eroded by the expansion” of the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument and the “expansion has jeopardized our fish supply, disrupted production, and added cost to our operation.”
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga had raised several times, his concerns over the reduction of fishing grounds due to federal policies to expand ocean monuments, sanctuaries, and closing the high seas fishing that has affected the supply and cost of fish delivered to StarKist.
“American Samoa’s financial and economic future is directly tied to the financial health of StarKist and its continued existence in the Territory,” Lolo said in his official written address to a joint session of the Fono last month.