Building a fish market for buyers and sellers in discussion says DOC director
While the new fish market manager and operator discussions are not finalized, the Commerce Department is entertaining Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s idea of building a two-story building in Fagatogo with the first floor an open fish market place — similar to fish market facilities in Samoa and Hawai’i — with wide-open space for both buyers and sellers of a variety of fish.
And to help with those who want to export fish overseas, the government is discussing the possibility of a processing, manufacturing and storage facility at the airport area or the Tafuna Industrial Park, says DOC director Keniseli Lafaele.
The American Samoa Community Activities and Issues Report submitted to last week’s 168th meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council in Honolulu says the fish market “will have a new manager soon.” It notes the fish market, funded by the Council, “and controlled by the local Department of Commerce, will be leased to a local businessman who the department has identified as the new market manager. The fish market will operate under its new management as a private business.” (See Samoa News edition Oct. 13 for details)
Lafaele told Samoa News late Wednesday afternoon that the lease to a local business man “isn’t finalized yet” and “we’ll make the identity [of the businessman] known when the talks are finalized.”
He explained that the fish market operator project was put out for bid, and about two or three responded with proposals, early this year. And although Tautai o Samoa Longline and Fishing Association was selected, it later rescinded it’s proposal, citing high costs just to get it off the ground, such as insurance and the monthly lease payment.
“The bidder with the proposal next in line from the …bidding process is the one we have been having talks with,” Lafaele said and stressed that, “talks are yet to be finalized.” He also said that if nothing is finalized with this bidder by the end of this week, “then we'll take the next step — to be determined. But we aim to get the facility fully utilized within 30 days.”
Lafaele went on to point out other fishery developments. For example, he says the fish market is too small to accommodate the fishermen displaying and selling their catch to the consuming public.
Therefore, DOC and the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources have been collaborating in the past two and a half months about providing an open market — situating tents, tables and chairs in the parking lot of the Fagatogo Market place, and providing ice — two Saturdays a month — after 1st and 3rd Fridays of the month.
And the fishermen are on their own, the other two Saturdays per month that is they pay for the tents, tables and chairs. “This has proven very successful and popular with both fishermen and customers,” he said.
A major proposed development is an idea from the governor that is “being entertained to build a two-story building adjacent to the existing market place structure (on the stream side),” Lafaele said, adding that the “first floor would be an open fish market — think fish markets in Apia or Honolulu — and the second floor for offices.”
According to the DOC director, another proposed development is that of a “processing, packaging and cold storage” that is being discussed to be situated at the airport — land within the airport fence — or industrial park for those interested in exporting fish, via air freight, to overseas market.
It’s unclear when a final decision will be made on the two-story building and the facility at the airport area, but Lafaele said discussions are ongoing at this point.