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PNA Tuna Report

Reprinted with permission from the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA)


Just as canning in American Samoa is going bust, the first regional training for small-scale tuna canning entrepreneurs in the Pacific started in Majuro. The training aims to certify prospective canners so that small domestic commercial tuna canning operations can be successfully launched in several island member nations of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).

Representatives from Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands participated in the training, which was focused on small-scale canning operations for domestic markets, using a large — 16oz — family size can.

PNA Commercial Manager Maurice Brownjohn added if entrepreneurs in the islands can agree to use the same size can, it will allow for bulk purchases of cans that will save money and will allow for standardizing the canning equipment, supply and labeling.

The training was conducted by the Australia-based company Food Stream to international standards.


Silky sharks, all three species of thresher sharks and all nine species of mobula rays (devil rays) will be listed on Appendix II of CITES after a series of landslide votes at the 17th Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The move was supported by the Pacific Islands, through the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

Mr Kosi Latu, Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), commented: "The recent and rapid declines in the populations of silky and thresher sharks and mobula rays in the SPREP region have not been driven by Pacific islanders, and the main markets for their products are outside the region. Like climate change impacts, Pacific island countries are not contributing to the problem, but are bearing most of the cost."

Appendix II lists species that may not be threatened with extinction at this very moment, but may become so unless trade is closely controlled.


David Melbourne, Senior Vice President of tuna brand Bumblebee, confirmed that sales of tuna were decreasing in a recent presentation. It’s not just that sales of shelf-stable tuna were down by 15% in the past decade, there was also a trend to put less tuna in the cans – with standard cans decreasing from 6oz to 5oz.

These trends are putting pressure on big brands like Bumblebee to find new ways to stimulate consumer demand such as promoting tuna’s health benefits and convenience such as pouch products and ready-made snacks.

Meanwhile, Taro Karamoto Director of Kyokuyo Co. Ltd pointed to declining consumer demand for tuna in Japan, albeit with different dynamics. The Japanese prefer to eat tuna fresh (sashimi 62% of tuna sales), dried as Katsuobushi (23% tuna sales) rather than canned (15% sales).  

Sales of all kinds of tuna was reduced by 25% from 2005-2014, with rising beef and pork consumption meaning reduced numbers of sashimi meals in Japanese households. Katsuobushi also had a 28% decline in consumption since 2005, while canned tuna was down 14%.


Tuna prices on the Bangkok market have started to weaken to about  $1400/mt after remained steady at $1450 a tonne in recent times.  This reflects the  better than expected fishing during the FAD closure.  Prices  have remained above $1400/mt  since early March, plateauing at $1650 through May

The Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) ban in PNA waters, due to end in late October, is also believed to have contributed to the trend of lower prices in expectation of increased supply to Bangkok.

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It’s a bad month for tuna employees working in American Samoa with the double whammy announcements of suspensions of operation by both Starkist and Trimarine-owned Samoa Tuna Processors (STP).

Samoa Tuna Processors processes shelf-stable and frozen tuna products distributed in the United States by The Tuna Store. Starkist Samoa, the largest employer in American Samoa, is owned by Korean company Dongwon.

StarKist Samoa announced they will shut down operations during the week starting October 10, while Trimarine stated it will suspend canning operations on December11.

StarKist spokesperson Michelle Faist said fewer deliveries of fish were 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 US fishing fleets.

However, other industry insiders pointed out, Dongwon, owners of the Starkist plant in Samoa, have a number of boats fishing successfully in the waters near American Samoa – but they choose not to supply their own plant in Pago Pago.  

Dongwon has bounced back and bounced high this year with its operating profit expected to exceed KRW 100 billion after its second-quarter operating profit surged 206 per cent on year to KRW 45.2 billion (USD 40.4 million). Operating income on sales was up 60 per cent on year and so were tuna prices (up around 30% more than this time last year).

Meanwhile, Renato Curto, CEO of the Tri Marine Group described the company’s decision as “incredibly difficult” citing challenging economics of canning tuna in American Samoa combined with external factors making the plant economically unsustainable. They are considering selling the plant, and in the meantime will use it as a logistics hub.

Trimarine re-opened the STP processing plant in January 2015 following a four-year, $70 million investment. It’s uncertain as yet what the announcement will mean for the US fleet, and which canning operations in other countries will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the move. More news in the next Tuna Market Intelligence.


The PNA Office reported September was another record level of effort for a FAD closure month – 3604 days. It appears high seas fishing is down but fishing in PNA Exclusive Economic Zones remains good. Yellowfin catch is good in zones and catch per unit effort is solid in many areas.

The higher price for skipjack than last year may also contribute to high effort level this September.  There are also less non-fishing days being recorded in the PNA Vessel Day Scheme suggesting longer fishing trips and less trips, with less time in transit.