Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that US Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, has requested his comments and views regarding Governor Togiola’s opposition to Eni’s efforts to strengthen the US tuna fishing fleet, and keep American Samoa’s canneries strong.
“In a letter dated July 30, 2008, Senator Inouye shared with me a copy of a letter he received from Governor Tulafono in opposition to my provision to strengthen our US tuna fishing fleet,” Faleomavaega said. “The Governor copied his letter to Lieutenant Governor Sunia, Senate President Lolo Moliga, and House Speaker Savali Ale. The Governor did not copy me and, as such, Senator Inouye forwarded Governor Togiola’s letter to me, and requested my comments and views.”
“Given the importance of this issue, I requested Senator Inouye’s permission to make these letters public, including the Governor’s letter of July 17 to the Senator, the Senator’s July 30 letter to me, and my April 11 response to the Senator. Senator Inouye agreed to my request, and the full texts of the letters are included in this release.”
Enclosed with Senator Inouye’s letter of July 30 to Faleomavaega was a copy of Governor Togiola’s letter of July 17 to the Senator. The full text of Governor Togiola’s letter to Senator Inouye is included below.
In response to Governor Togiola’s letter of opposition and Senator Inouye’s request for comments and views, Faleomavaega submitted a letter on August 11 to Senator Inouye, who serves as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Dear Mr. Chairman:
I am writing in response to your correspondence of July 30 in which you shared with me a copy of a July 17 letter you received from Governor Togiola in opposition to H.R. 3669, a bill I introduced to strengthen the US tuna fishing fleet so that our canneries can have an adequate supply of fish to process in order to stay in American Samoa. I thank you for seeking my comments and views regarding this important matter.
Since Governor Togiola did not copy me on the letters he sent to you on May 29 and July 17, nor has he ever approached me by phone or letter to inform me of his objections, I had no idea he was opposing my work. This is regrettable, especially given that I copied Governor Togiola on my June 17 letter (attached) to the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council and also on my letter of June 12 (attached) to the Fono in which I clearly outlined my efforts to revitalize the US tuna fishing fleet for purposes of protecting our canneries and the jobs of our cannery workers.
To my knowledge, prior to the receipt of the letter you forwarded me from Governor Togiola, only one tuna purse seiner, one longliner, and Mr. Fred Radewagen, who is the husband and senior campaign advisor of one of my opponents, Mrs. Aumua Amata Radewagen, have objected to my efforts. While, on June 9, the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House sent a letter to me misrepresenting the facts about H.R. 3669, I provided them with a response on June 12, and have not heard further from them.
However, it has been made known to me that Mr. Fred Radewagen contacted former Senator John Breaux’s firm for assistance in lobbying against the bill which I introduced, but Senator Breaux refused to work against me. In turn, Mr. Joe Finete, who owns one or two tuna boats, has taken up Mr. Radewagen’s cause and hired one of Senator Breaux’s former staffers, now a Washington lobbyist, to represent their interests. Mr. Finete also recently established a Tunaboat Owners Coalition which, as I have been told, consists only of Mr. Finete’s one or two boats. Serving as the Executive Director for Mr. Finete’s Coalition is Mr. Manase Mansur, a former Republican lobbyist and long-time supporter and campaign advisor to Mr. Fred Radewagen’s wife, Mrs. Amata Coleman Radewagen, who is running for the seventh time now for American Samoa’s Congressional seat.
For your information, on July 14, Samoa News published a June 26 letter Mr. Finete wrote to Governor Togiola criticizing my position regarding American Samoa’s need to protect its canneries and our workers. Like Governor Togiola, Mr. Finete did not copy me on his letter so I was unaware of his concerns until I read about them in the newspaper. In his letter, Mr. Finete thanked Governor Togiola for making “constructive statements in the media raising concerns about legislation by the Delegate in Washington, D.C., which would negatively impact American Samoa’s tuna industry.”
Despite Mr. Finete’s suggestions that the Governor was supporting his cause, my office was not privy to any media statements the Governor may have made since the Governor’s comments were not published in the local newspapers. Also, the Governor did not forward me a copy of Mr. Finete’s letter nor, as I mentioned earlier, did the Governor contact me to openly express his concerns. Therefore, in my response to Mr. Finete, I informed him that I was unclear about his assertions about the Governor.
On July 22 and August 8, Mr. Carlos Sanchez, a man who owns a small long liner, also made misleading statements to the media but he, too, never bothered to write to my office. Whether or not Mr. Sanchez is affiliated with the Governor or Mr. Radewagen, I do not know, and it does not matter, as I believe everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, in his letter to you, Governor Togiola states that my legislation “will allow Taiwan built purse seiners based in Pago Pago to be operated by Taiwanese for Taiwan business interests.” This is not the case.
To be clear, the bill I offered is a follow-up to legislation which originated in 2005 in the Senate Commerce Committee when you and Senator Stevens agreed to a request made by the U.S-flag tuna boat owners and the United States Tuna Foundation to allow the U.S.-flag distant water tuna fleet, which fishes exclusively in the South Pacific Tuna Treaty Area and the South Pacific exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the United States, to employ internationally licensed personnel to serve as officers due to a shortage of licensed US citizens willing to serve as officers on US tuna vessels. The provision passed the Senate in October 2005. There was no House companion bill, and the conference report on the Coast Guard Authorization bill agreed with the Senate passed provision. The conference report passed Congress in June and the President signed the bill on July 11, 2006.
I cannot thank you and Senator Stevens enough for the efforts you made to
revitalize the US tuna fleet for purposes of keeping American Samoa’s canneries operational. As you know, the US tuna fishing fleet had dwindled down from a fleet of about 40 to only 14 tuna purse seiners. With the enactment of the Senate provision in 2006, however, new vessels were ordered for the US tuna fishing fleet. In fact, no vessels were ordered and no contracts were signed until after July 2006 because if the new boats could not use foreign officers, there was no way to increase the US tuna fishing fleet given that US officers were not available.
Thanks to your leadership and the leadership of Senator Stevens, the US tuna fishing fleet has now added ten new boats to its fleet, with two more to be added in the near future. In accordance with an agreement worked out between the South Pacific Tuna Corporation, the US Department of Commerce, and the US Department of State, of which I was not privy but do support, it was agreed the boats could be built in Taiwan since US shipyards have not built a tuna purse seiner in the past 30 years. It was also agreed that the boats would fly the US flag and be permitted to fish in the South Pacific Tuna Treaty Area. These are the boats to which the Governor is referring. Despite his claims to the contrary, these boats are part of the US tuna fishing fleet and are managed by the South Pacific Tuna Corporation, a US tuna purse seine vessel management company, with US shareholders at 51% and Taiwanese shareholders at 49%, with the majority of US shareholders directly associated with Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing. Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing has operations in American Samoa, as does StarKist. Bumble Bee does not.
At the time of the negotiation regarding the revitalization of the US tuna fishing fleet, StarKist was up for sale and was not in a position to enter into the partnership. StarKist is now finalizing its sale for $363 million to Dongwon, a Korean enterprise, and, therefore, is limited in what it can say about the newest members of the US tuna fishing fleet but has submitted a letter (attached) stating that “StarKist believes a strong United States tuna fleet is critical for the US tuna industry and American Samoa.”
I agree, and this is why I introduced H.R. 3669. To ensure that our fleet stays strong, that all US tunaboats in the US tuna fishing fleet are treated the same, that American Samoa’s canneries have a constant supply of fish, and that our workers’ jobs are protected, H.R. 3669 would allow the newest members of the US tuna fishing fleet to fish in the same waters as the older members of our fleet, including the waters around Howland Island, Baker Island, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island, especially given that tuna is a highly migratory fish. H.R. 3669 is based on US policy which was established almost 25 years ago when Representative Tony Won Pat of Guam authored legislation to promote the US fishing industry in the Pacific by allowing US flag ships built in foreign countries to fish in fishery conservation zones and territorial seas adjacent to the Pacific territories. H.R. 3669 builds on this policy to include US flag tuna purse seine vessels.
Prior to the introduction of this legislation, it is my understanding that representatives of Bumble Bee and the South Pacific Tuna Corporation met with Senate Commerce Committee staff to seek their input. Also, given the Fono’s concerns about the EEZ of American Samoa, my office informed Senate Commerce Committee staff that I would be asking the Senate to revise H.R. 3669 to exclude the EEZs of American Samoa, Guam, and CNMI, a revision the new boats have agreed to support. H.R. 3669 was passed by the House on April 24, 2008.
Recently, Mr. Finete and Mr. Sanchez have publicly stated that no tuna from the new vessels has been delivered to American Samoa’s canneries, and that the new vessels have no intention of supplying our canneries. This is misleading. While the new boats do not pull into American Samoa’s port, by contractual agreement, Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing and Bumble Bee have the right of first refusal to purchase fish harvested. Chicken of the Sea, through its parent company, Thai Union, has exercised that right on almost all of the fish it has been offered. As Chicken of the Sea and the South Pacific Tuna Corporation explain, this process allows Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing and Bumble Bee to purchase fish based on proximity to processing locations meaning that if the new vessels catch fish closer to Bangkok, then they unload in Bangkok which, in the case of Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing, allows Thai Union to send other fish caught closer to American Samoa to the Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing plant. This not only stabilizes Samoa Packing’s operations but also helps the older boats in the US tuna fishing fleet by ensuring that their fish is also utilized by the canneries.
As the South Pacific Tuna Corporation states in an attached letter, “in an increasingly competitive tuna business, the logistics of matching fish harvesting locations to processing locations is extremely important.” As Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing states, “this arrangement helps guarantee our canneries will receive the fish they need to continue operation. Since we know we will receive the fish we need, this dependable source of fish helps stabilize our cannery operations and ensures our workers have jobs, especially in American Samoa, regardless of whether or not our fish is offloaded in port.”
While I appreciate that this is an election year and that some will attempt to discredit my efforts, H.R. 3669 is supported by Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing and Bumble Bee, and their letters of support are enclosed for your information. As I stated earlier, StarKist, which has operations in American Samoa, supports a stronger US fleet, which is the intent of H.R. 3669, but is limited in what it can openly say until its parent company, Del Monte, closes on the sale of StarKist to Dongwon.
As an aside, and in response to the Governor’s criticism that the new boats are for Taiwan business interests, the fact of the matter is American Samoa’s entire tuna industry has gone foreign, as has the US branded tuna industry. Both canneries in American Samoa are now foreign-owned. Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing is owned by Thai Union. StarKist, which is owned by Del Monte, is being sold to Dongwon, a Korean enterprise, whose Chairman I intend to meet in Korea in the very near future. Bumble Bee, which does not have operations in American Samoa, is owned by a Canadian company. Also, both our old and new tuna boats have foreign officers and foreign crews on board. Such is the nature of the global tuna business, but I am pleased that the new tunaboat owners have agreed to hire Samoans as officers and crew if our people desire to work on these boats. I am also pleased that our old tunaboats still employ Samoans.
But the Governor’s point about Taiwan business interests is moot considering that the US branded tuna industry is for Thai, Korean, and Canadian business interests. Regardless of these circumstances, my purpose in moving H.R. 3669 forward is to ensure that the canneries in American Samoa, whether foreign owned or not, have the fish they need to stay in American Samoa. No fish means no canneries and no canneries mean no jobs.