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Tri-Marine's goal: to make American Samoa a regional tuna processing hub

fili@samoanews.com

Having American Samoa be the hub of tuna operations and processing is Tri Marine International’s goal, as the U.S. based company with worldwide operations focuses on investing in the U.S. Pacific territory.

The company is also moving forward with improved technology for its Pago Pago based fishing fleet with the use of iPads and installation of electronic monitoring devices to ensure safe practices onboard vessels while at sea.

A news conference called by company officials from off-island was held last Wednesday where new information surfaced, including Tri Marine’s goal of American Samoa being a regional hub for tuna operations.  (See last week and yesterday’s edition for other details from the news conference).

“We have been working hard trying to make our business stronger and we identified some time ago, business within the islands is within the islands,” said company official Joe Hamby.

“The tuna that is caught in the Pacific is around the islands and it makes all the sense in the world, that tuna caught in the islands is processed in the islands,” said Hamby, who pointed out that there will be enough tuna for other markets such as Thailand or China.

He also stated if a consumer of tuna knows that tuna was caught “in this beautiful South Pacific and you know that it was processed in the wonderful American Samoa canneries, either at StarKist or our plant, there should be some special appreciation for the fact that this fish is caught in these wonderful waters, processed by this culture and giving value to this culture.”

Hamby said that this will bring economic sustainability to the people of American Samoa, which could then be a regional hub for tuna caught in the South Pacific.

Hamby went on to say that some countries in the South Pacific don’t have enough land area to set up a tuna processing facility — places like Tokelau, Tuvalu or Kiribati — and some of them don’t have enough resources to process tuna economically.

“…here, in American Samoa, we have infrastructure, we have a fleet, we have people who can do the work,” he said. “So if we can work and partner with other [South Pacific] countries, for fish caught in their waters to be processed here, then American Samoa can became a regional hub.”

For example, fish caught in Tuvalu waters are never off loaded in Tuvalu, and American Samoa can be the off loading point as well as the processing facility for that country, whose people can be in the territory to monitor fish off-loaded here, said Hamby.

So by partnering with a South Pacific country, that island nation can direct fish that is caught in their waters be brought to the territory, said Hamby adding that these island countries can do that because they are sovereign nations.

“They [the country] can say to the fishing vessel - [if] you want to fish in my waters, fish have to be unloaded in American Samoa. That’s a…kind of… revolutionary idea—but it's possible. And that’s what we’re looking at,” he added.

Tri Marine has already started discussions on this idea with other island countries. In July last year, there were representatives from the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) in Pago Pago on a day visit to talk with Tri Marine officials.

Hamby said the meeting with the PNA— which is made up of eight countries— is part of the effort to attract other countries to work in partnership with American Samoa and “it’s an on going effort for some time” he said. However, he said that he is not “in a position to share the status of our discussions" as they are ongoing.

“But I can tell you that is our goal — to make sure that American Samoa is a regional hub for the South Pacific,” he said adding that Papua New Guinea will be another hub.

“The Pacific is the most important source of tuna in the world. Sixty percent of the tuna comes from the central and western Pacific. It should be processed in the Pacific islands. There can be two hubs - one in Papua New Guinea and one in American Samoa,” he said.

Tri Marine chairman Renato Curto added that American Samoa already has a tuna infrastructure capability as well as an experienced work force in this industry.

“So there is a mobility of workers around the island. We really, as a company, believe in giving back to the islands... as much as we can, for what we take [in tuna],” he said.

Curto also revealed that during this trip they brought iPads to be used by captains on their vessels, who will use them for reporting on "everything that happens at sea.”

“We are soon going to install electronic monitoring on the vessels, so that in addition to the physical observation on board the boat, there is going to be videos of everything that happens, so there are no mistakes made at sea,” he said.

He also said that Tri Marine vessels are now enrolled in the “ProActive Vessel Registry” (PVR), which publicly distinguishes which vessels are taking a proactive approach and committing to the overall sustainability of tuna fisheries from vessels that are not. The PVR is a project of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) and Tri Marine is among the co-founders of ISSF.

“Tri Marine is a company that is committed to sustainability and to the environment,” he said. “And being friends with the ocean is valuable to us, because that's where we make a living.”



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