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Freezer would serve canneries, local fishing fleet

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Oct. 3, 2011) – In Am. Samoa, Gov. Togiola Tulafono says his administration is working on building a multi-million freezer storage facility to provide fish storage space for not only the canneries but the local fishing fleet, and doing so is part of the government's commitment to assist the canneries in the territory.

Speaking on his weekend radio program, Togiola said that his last meeting on his recent trip to Washington D.C. was the one held in Honolulu before returning to the territory last week Monday.

He says the meeting in Honolulu was with economic development officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Hawai'i Office regarding plans for a major freezer storage facility for American Samoa and this project is to provide enough capacity to store fish from fishing vessels, who are unable to immediately off-load their fish at the canneries.

He said this facility will allow fishing vessels to off-load their catch right away and head back out to sea instead of waiting in port for several weeks for off loading purposes.

According to the governor, the USDA in Hawai'i has endorsed the local project but their office could not provide the necessary funding for such a major undertaking, which is estimated to cost between US$11 million and US$12 million.

The Hawai'i office has agreed to work with American Samoa Government on American Samoa's application to be submitted directly to the USDA in Washington D.C., which is hoped to be completed before the end of the year, he said.

Togiola says he has already discussed this facility with StarKist Samoa and Tri Marine International, operator of the new cannery Samoa Tuna Processors, as help to the canneries, as well as benefiting the local fishing fleet that want to sell their catches to the canneries.

He said the government needs to stand strong to protect local companies -especially the canneries - to ensure that they don't leave our shores, as did Chicken of the Sea (COS), when they closed down COS Samoa Packing.

He said the goal for this important project is to assist the canneries in order to protect this backbone of the local economy. Togiola said that without these companies, which provide jobs through their operations as well as by supporting and patronizing companies that serve the canneries, American Samoa will continue to depend only on federal grants.

He called for everyone's support in this endeavor and hopes that things will move forward in the new year.

Samoa News reported in March this year that Togiola told a congressional panel the government is working on purchasing a 2,400 ton cold storage freezer facility to be located in the Department of Port Administration -the port area - which will be made available to the local fishing fleet and both canneries, StarKist and Tri Marine.

It became a priority with the government when StarKist Samoa lost one of its main storage freezer facilities, located on government land managed by the American Samoa Power Authority in Satala. The facility was disassembled to make way for the new ASPA Satala power plant.

At the time, StarKist said it had not made any final decisions regarding the status of the storage freezer facility. "We look forward to working with the Governor on this matter [on the freezer]," said StarKist Co. spokesman Mary Sestric, of the issue.

Samoa News understands the location of the freezer facility is now being discussed as possibly at the Satala area, in one of the cannery locations.

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