Am. Samoa Company: Purse Seine Fishing Day Cut Ineffective

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Tri Marine calls tuna industry ‘sick’ due to excess capacity

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, May 7, 2015) – Tri Marine International says the decision by an international purse seine boat association to reduce fishing days as a conservation effort will not fix the problem of overfishing and said the tuna industry is "sick", with depressed prices a symptom of the disease.

Industry online news service, Undercurrent News, reported Monday that the World Tuna Purse-seine Organization (WTPO) announced that its members are, "concerned about the current tuna industry and optimal conservation and sustainable use of valuable tuna resources", and have agreed to cut their fishing efforts.

In a statement to its members following a meeting in Guam on Apr. 26, the organization says that WTPO members have agreed to adopt a 35% reduction of fishing effort from May 15, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2015, according to Undercurrent News.

They will also meet on July 21, 2015, to assess the situation and "take further action if necessary". The WTPO will also cooperate closely with Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) for better management of the tuna fishery, the statement reads.

Another online news service, atuna.com, reported last week that the fishing reduction excludes fleets in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (areas of the coast of North & South America).

Reduction in fishing has prompted concerns from local and off island industry officials because of the impact it will have on the purse seine fleet which supplies the local canneries. They also believe that WTPO’s decision was due to the low tuna prices.

Tri Marine’s local operations include Samoa Tuna Processor Inc., and about ten locally based U.S. purse seiners.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Tri Marine chief operation officers, Joe Hamby said, the company — which is not a member of the WTPO — sympathizes with the WTPO boat owners’ predicament as the current price of tuna is below their cost of fishing.

"WTPO believes that reducing the fishing effort will help balance supply and demand and allow prices to increase," he said yesterday. "That may happen, but slowing down the boats will not fix the problem of excess fishing capacity."

"The tuna industry is sick — depressed prices are a symptom and overcapacity is the disease. This is a global problem and it’s time for all stakeholders to sit down together and find solutions," he pointed out. "Until we do, we will be faced with price levels that threaten the economic sustainability of the boats and the communities that rely upon the island-based processing plants."

"We need leadership, especially from the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, to freeze fishing capacity so that new boats cannot enter the fishery unless they are replacing comparably sized boats that have been scrapped," he said.

American Tunaboat Association executive director Brian Hallman, in response to our request for comments, told Samoa News yesterday that, "hopefully, the [WTPO] announcement will have a positive impact. Right now, there is no shortage of fish; on the contrary, there are too many boats catching too much tuna."

"So anything that slows this down would be beneficial to the fish stocks and the fishermen," he said and noted that the association is not a member of WTPO, but a cooperating non-member.

Undercurrent News quotes an unidentified U.S. based tuna executive saying that the move by WTPO is not connected to the price increase in tuna. However, the news agency did point out that although prices are up, there is still no shortage of fish.

It quotes the U.S. based source saying that although boats in the Western Pacific Ocean have had to migrate east to try and improve catches, there is still a bundle of fish around, with America Samoa plugged with boats and no real signs that canned tuna sales are picking up.

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