Hundreds of jobs lost as Tri Marine explains the failure of its plant in American Samoa

Categories @WCPFC13, FFA Media Fellows past eventsPosted on

By Samisoni Pareti, Pacific Media@WCPFC13

One of the South Pacific’s largest tuna canneries is closing shop as Pacific fisheries managers wrangle over tuna fishing controls with the world’s leading fishing nations in Fiji this week.
Eight hundred out of the 900 employees of Samoa Tuna Processors in American Samoa face a bleak Christmas now that the company has confirmed that 16 December will be it last day of production.
At this stage the future of the plant looks bleak.
Samoa Tuna is owned by global conglomerate Tri Marine, and Joe Hamby, CEO of Tri Marine’s The Tuna Store, says a combination of unforeseen factors made production of its Pago Pago cannery unviable.
“This is a large-scale cannery. We can’t just do limited production. We’ve invested a lot of money there, we have to amortise that investment with a lot of production. To have a lot of production we need to have a lot of customers. Unfortunately not all the customers appreciate the value that’s implied when you have an island based supply chain,” explains Hamby to Pacific journalists in Nadi, Fiji where he is attending the 13th session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
“What does it take to process tuna on the islands? You need labour, and labour is available, but it is not cheap. From the time we decided to invest in American Samoa, the minimum wage went up. That’s the result of a political decision, beyond our control.
“You’ll need fish. You’ve seen the Obama administration deciding to create some national marine monuments under the Antiquities Act, which by signing, he closed a number of our traditional fishing grounds. So we have less areas to fish, and when there’s less areas to fish, boats are forced into other areas where they have to pay a lot of money to go fishing and it became uneconomical for some boats, and .. the supply of raw materials to American Samoa was impacted.
“The other thing you need in any tuna operation is a tuna plant with all the energy to process the tuna and guess what, in the islands is super expensive. So when a customer comes to you and says, ‘I want some tuna and I’d love if it comes from American Samoa but can you give it at this price?’ I will ask ‘where did you get that price from?’ ‘Well from some place with really cheap labour, really cheap energy, huge volumes of production, very low overhead costs,’ and we can’t just compete with that.”

Hamby would not comment on whether Tri Marine is in talks with potential buyers for their US$70 million plant in Pago Pago.
He said Tri Marine’s American Samoa plant cannery could not supply tuna Tri Marine’s market in Australian because the current supplier is based in Thailand, where it enjoys duty considerations in the Australian market.
Tri Marine also runs a large cannery in Noro, Solomon Islands, and this operation supplies the Pacific and the European markets.
The Tri Marine executive said the conglomerate hasn’t made any approaches to the administration of the American President-elect Donald Trump.
“We’ll have meetings after the handover in January. We will continue to advocate for American Samoa. We will continue to mention that American Samoa is a fragile economy that is dependent on the tuna to the extent that free trade agreements that erode American Samoa’s value of its duty exemptions, to the extent that fishing grounds are limited that has left less tuna coming to the territory, to the extent that minimum wage goes higher still, to the extent that nothing can be done with the energy cost. These are things that will be working against American Samoa.

“We have been trying to sensitize the Obama administration of all of these things but their priorities have obviously been elsewhere. We’re disappointed in that. We will continue to work hand in hand with Governor Moliga’s administration to improve the prospects of the cannery in American Samoa.”

Heavy going for tuna recovery plan talks

Categories @WCPFC13, FFA Media Fellows past eventsPosted on

By Samisoni Pareti, Pacific Media@WCPFC13

Proposals to reduce fishing efforts in order to allow tuna stocks to recover are reported to being stymied by fishing powers at the 13th session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission that is underway in Nadi, Fiji this week.
Commission chair, Marshallese Rhea Moss Christian established discussion groups yesterday (Tuesday) in an attempt to get some movement on the discussions.
A recovery plan for the much-depleted Pacific Bluefin tuna did not get the endorsement of delegates yesterday, and a group is now looking further into the issue.
Sources in the WCPFC session say the Commission’s Northern Committee, comprising delegates of countries that fish for Pacific Bluefin in the northern Pacific Ocean had submitted a proposal on how to save bluefin, but the proposal was knocked back at the plenary session, with many delegates complaining that the recovery plan was too watered down and ineffective.
Japan is reportedly not too keen on reducing fishing effort of Pacific Bluefin. Scientists are warning that due to overfishing, Pacific Bluefin stock has been reduced to a mere 2.6% of its original biomass.
Another proposal that is getting some serious knockbacks is the recovery plan, or harvest strategy for the Pacific Albacore tuna. China is reportedly the stumbling block and the feelings among some delegates are that any resolution can only be brokered by Pacific island nations that enjoy cordial relations with mainland China.
The other item on the agenda that hasn’t progressed so well since the 13th session of the WCPFC opened on Monday this week is measures to secure the safety of Pacific Island Observers that work in the Pacific fleets of distant water fishing nations.
Our sources say all working groups are due to report back to the main plenary later today.
The WCPFC secretariat is based in Pohnpei, in the Federated States of Micronesia and is charged with managing fishing in the high seas of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
Members of WCPFC include the 17 countries that are members of the Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu) and distant water fishing nations of China, Canada, European Community, France, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.
Six Pacific territories of American Samoa, Northern Marianas, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia and Tokelau are also in the WCPFC and five other countries listed as cooperating non-members are Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Liberia and Vietnam.
The meeting will end on Saturday.

Canning the Pacific tuna story

Categories FeaturesPosted on

By Samisoni Pareti, Pacific Media@WCPFC13

Dual labels of a blue and white fish and a Pacific Island maiden on a can of tuna market the beautiful tale of a group of islanders living largely in small states of the Pacific who are anxious about sustainable fishing.

Through an initiative eight-nation PNA group, which is home to 50 per cent of the world’s skipjack canning tuna, tinned fish with the PNA’s white Pasifical logo and the blue tuna label of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) are now retailed in Australia, New Zealand and in Europe.

Marine Stewardship Council label

The MSC label is the global gold standard for sustainable fisheries. It guarantees the tuna has been caught in free-schools, without the help of artificial measures like Fish Aggregate Devices (FADs).

“We’ve since had yellowfin (tuna) certified along with skipjack,” says Maurice Brown-john, commercial manager of the PNA secretariat. “We (the small PNA nations) are somewhere from 90 to 100% of the global supply of MSC certified skipjack and yellowfin MSC certified or potential supply. So we’re building up the global markets.
“Already this year we’re well over 50,000 tonnes. The key thing with this is we’re marketing it through Pacifical which is a joint venture marketing arrangement used exclusively for marketing PNA MSC products.
Just as Fiji Water is synonymous with Fiji, Pacifical is synonymous with PNA skipjack and yellowfin”, Mr Brownjohn said.
John West, one of the popular canned tuna brands in Australia, is now retailing PNA supplied tuna bearing the MSC label. More than 100 million cans are sold each year in Australia. John West is also selling these in New Zealand and there are plans to market the brand in Europe.
Brownjohn believes John West captures 45% of the canned tuna market in Australia. Customers can trace where tuna was caught.
Ludwig Kumoru, the new CEO of the PNA, said the eco-label deal with MSC is beginning to pay off for the eight island countries that are members of PNA, namely, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
“It is really selling the Pacific,” says Kumoru. “When you scan the code on the can, it tells you which boat caught the tuna that is in the can, so its good marketing ..for the Pacific.”

Kumoru said the decision to establish an eco-label stemmed from a tuna conservation measure that bans the use of FADs between 3 to 4 months in a year in Pacific waters. To make up for the shortfall of tuna revenue during the ban period, PNA proposed the marketing of free-school tuna that can be retailed at premium price, in association with the MSC’s label.

“So it has worked in a positive way. They (fishing boats) focus on free schools because they know if they fish on free schools, they get more money. We are addressing the conservation issue and the industry is happy because they are getting a little bit more money,” adds Kumoru.