Assessment For Sustainable Certification Of American Samoa Longliner Fleet Ongoing

Marine Stewardship Council still considering data provided by U.S. fleet

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, March 14, 2017) – The Marine Stewardship Council certification assessment of the U.S longliner fleet based in American Samoa is still on going and the local fleet had provided to the assessment team a “great amount of data and records” for their review, says Christinna Lutu-Sanchez, president of locally based Tautai-O-Samoa Longline and Fishing Association.

StarKist Co., announced mid December 2016 that it was investing in the local US flagged longline fleet, which is also the supply source for the company’s StarKist Samoa cannery, so the fishing vessels can achieve Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.

“With MSC Fisheries Certification, these vessels and their owners can finally be recognized and rewarded for their sustainable fishing practices,” StarKist Co. director of procurement, Cary Gann said at the time. 

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Lutu-Sanchez said they have not yet heard back from the independent audit team conducting the certification assessment, which is still ongoing.

“As far as we know, they are reviewing all of the documents and records that they collected during their initial visit and interviews, and as our fishery is quite regulated and monitored, they received a great amount of data and records to review and assess,” she said last Friday.

“From all of their findings, I suppose we will then hear back from them, but yes, we are definitely going through the process of getting MSC certified,” she said.

Lutu-Sanchez told Samoa News last December that the association had asked the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council for “financial assistance to get this assessment done as we could not afford it, however Starkist came along and offered to help us by paying for this assessment in their continued support of our fleet.”

According to a report by the Council’s staff, the team from United Kingdom-based ME Certification Ltd, is conducting the assessment on behalf of StarKist.

The assessment focuses on the American Samoa longline fishery operation in the U.S exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around American Samoa and will cover South Pacific albacore and yellowfin tuna landings and associated fishery products, according to the report prepared ahead of the Mar. 21-23 Council meeting in Honolulu.

It also says that there are 14 active longline vessels in American Samoa that have signed on to be the vessels under the Unit of Certification.

It explains that the 14 vessels have historically provided nearly all of their albacore and other tuna catch to StarKist Samoa, with most remaining under a tuna supply agreement with the cannery.

“If certified, it is expected that the 100% of the MSC certified product landed by the American Samoa longline vessels will be canned in Pago Pago and sold in US markets,” it says.  “However, if other markets provide higher premiums for the MSC certified fish, it is also expected that StarKist and the vessel owners will explore those markets that provide the best economic returns.”

Currently, there is around a $100 a ton premium on MSC certified cannery-grade albacore in comparison to non-MSC certified albacore. For the American Samoa longline fishery, which has struggled financially in recent years due to low catch rates and high operating costs, any increase in ex-vessel fish prices is critically important, the report points out.

Furthermore, the American Samoa longline fishery is the first fishery under Council management that will undergo MSC certification evaluation. And the certification assessment process is expected to take around 8- 10 months for completion.

Lutu-Sanchez is one of three American Samoa members on the Council.

The Samoa News
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As i age, the concept of "urging sustainable-practices", especially regarding scarce resources, bewilders. Freeriders, those of short-term sustainable practices, i understand, pressure the more enlightened, those of long-term sustainable practices, to act contrary to their best interests. Takeaway, mixing metaphors, while we debate the merits of forestalling "Global Warming", freeriders are eating our lunch!

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