US Tuna Fleet to Resume Fishing

Pacific Island Parties reach agreement with State Department


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


BELLEVUE, WASH. – March 3, 2016 –  (UPDATED) Today, Tri Marine announced that the ten U.S. flag Cape fleet vessels and other U.S. flag boats based in American Samoa will once again be allowed access to their historic fishing grounds in the Western and Central Pacific after nearly two months of being locked out by failed treaty negotiations. 

“This is welcome news not only for our fleet and our business, but to the many families in American Samoa that depend on a tuna-based economy, including the 2,000 employees we aim to have working when we are at capacity at Samoa Tuna Processors (STP),” said Don Binotto, CEO of STP and The Tuna Store.

During the treaty impasse, several of the Cape Fisheries vessels had to shift fishing operations to the Eastern Tropical Pacific – far from American Samoa where they are usually based. They will now be able to go back to their base.

All U.S. flagged tuna boats were tied up at the start of the year due to a disagreement with the tuna treaty that had surfaced in November 2015. In a meeting on November 4, the ATA informed the U.S. Government that its members could not afford the $69 million price tag for 5,950 fishing days due to the rapidly declining value of tuna. The cost to access the fish at that rate, ATA explained, didn’t make any sense as the value of the catch would not cover the cost of fishing.  Boats had to choose either to stay in port or to move to other fishing grounds.

The U.S. State Department subsequently notified the PIPs that the U.S. was only able to purchase 4,020 days for 2016. Three months later, on February 10, 2016, the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) responded to that letter proposing to sell 3,909 fishing days. Within days, the ATA accepted the PIPs’ proposal and, with a few details about the timing of payments still to be worked out, began telling its members to prepare their vessels to fish once again.

While the ATA’s acceptance was relatively swift, it was not without concern from a number of vessel owners who worry they’ve already lost two months of fishing in 2016. However, efforts are now focused on getting back to work and beginning the effort toward a longer-term solution for 2017 and beyond.

“Tri Marine stands by its long-term position that the current treaty model is obsolete,” said Tri Marine’s CEO, Renato Curto, “when island nations are dependent upon selling access rather than on the value of the resource itself for economic stability, the model cannot adequately withstand fluctuations in market conditions that characterize the industry.  What we really need is control on fishing capacity.  That’s the best way to stabilize the market.”

Throughout the treaty impasse, Tri Marine has been sourcing tuna from more distant waters and relying on raw material reserves held in its cold storages to meet production requirements at STP.

“We are happy to see the tuna boats return to American Samoa and operate in nearby waters,” Curto said, “but there’s still a lot of work to do if we are going to find a long-term solution that makes sense for all parties.”

 

ABOUT Tri Marine

Tri Marine is a recognized leader in fishing, processing and distributing high-quality tuna products to the world’s markets. The company focuses on quality, sustainability, innovation and customer satisfaction. As a socially responsible operator, Tri Marine has chosen to invest in the communities closest to fishery resources. Together with its workforce of over 5,000 employees, Tri Marine is committed to all of its customers, suppliers and stakeholders for the long term. For more information, visit www.trimarinegroup.com.