Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is responding to Ms. Rosie Lancaster and Governor Togiola’s call to action to remove section 421 from H.R. 2830. Section 421 is based on H.R. 3669, a bill Faleomavaega introduced to strengthen the US tuna fishing fleet. The bill was incorporated as section 421 of H.R. 2830, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2007, which passed the US House of Representatives on April 24, 2008.
“Almost six months after the fact, on September 30 and October 1, 2008, Ms. Rosie Lancaster and Governor Togiola have joined hands and issued press releases published one day apart using the same words and phrases to mislead our people on this very important issue,” Faleomavaega said. “While it is their prerogative to oppose my efforts to keep American Samoa’s canneries strong, strengthen the US tuna fishing fleet, and protect the jobs of some 5,000 of our cannery workers, I intend to stand up for what is in the best interest of our economy and our people. This is why I am providing our people with a detailed response to the false allegations being put forward.”
“More than 80% of American Samoa’s private sector economy is dependent either directly or indirectly on our tuna canneries which employ more than 74% of our private sector workforce. Given that the US tuna fishing fleet had dwindled down from about 40 tuna boats to only about 14, I introduced H.R. 3669 on September 26, 2007 for purposes of making sure our canneries have a constant supply of fish. Without boats, we have no fish. Without fish, we have no canneries. Without canneries, we have no jobs.”
“The legislation I introduced builds on legislation which originated in the Senate Commerce Committee in 2005 when Senators Daniel Inouye and Senator Ted 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 tuna purse seine 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. Specifically, the provision stipulated that of the 3 officers required to be on board, 2 could be foreign, but the captain must be a US licensed officer. This provision became law on July 11, 2006.”
“While the House was not involved in the crafting of this legislation, I believe the legislation was necessary as it allowed for new tuna boats to be added to the US fishing fleet. In fact, with enactment of this provision, new tuna boats were purchased and added to the fleet by the South Pacific Tuna Corporation (SPTC). Contrary to Rosie’s claims that these new vessels are part of a “Communist Chinese business partnership,” the boats are owned by SPTC, 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. For Rosie’s information, even the US State Department supported SPTC’s efforts to rebuild our US tuna fishing fleet and asked SPTC if they would acquire some of Taiwan’s tuna boats since Taiwan had exceeded its capacity limit, or the number of boats it could have in its fleet.”
“SPTC agreed to the US State Department’s request and purchased some of Taiwan’s boats and also had Taiwan build some new tuna boats. All of these tuna boats were then added to the US tuna fishing fleet. These tuna boats are now part of the US tuna fishing fleet and, in accordance with US law, these tuna boats are registered and documented by the US Coast Guard, fly the US flag, are 51% majority-owned, and are licensed to fish in the South Pacific Tuna Treaty Area, including the foreign EEZs of the treaty areas of all 16 Pacific Island nations which are party to the agreement including Australia, Cook Islands, Federates States of Micronesia , Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Samoa.”
“However, because our new boats were not built in the US, they do not have a fishery endorsement, and this is where Governor Togiola and Ms. Lancaster get confused.”
“A fishery endorsement is reserved for boats built in the United States. In the case of our tuna boats, a fishery endorsement allows boats built in the US to fish in any portion of the United States exclusive economic zones bordering the South Pacific Tuna treaty area. These waters include territorial sea and fishery conservation zones adjacent to Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and includes the waters surrounding the Pacific Island areas of Wake, Johnston, Howland, Baker, Jarvis, Palmyra, and Kingman Reef.”
“Because our old tuna boats were built in San Diego, they can fish in the US waters bordering the South Pacific Tuna Treaty area. Because our new tuna boats were built in Taiwan, they cannot. Given that the US is party to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty and that our new US tuna boats are already licensed to fish in all parts of the South Pacific Tuna Treaty area except the US EEZs, I felt it was unfair that our newest US boats could not fish in our own US waters just because they were not built in the US, especially given that US shipyards have not built a US tuna vessel in more than 30 years.”
“To provide equal treatment for all members of the US tuna fishing fleet and to make it possible for our new tuna boats to fish closer to American Samoa and offload at our canneries, I introduced H.R. 3669 which is now section 421 of H.R. 2830, which was overwhelming passed by the US House of Representatives on April 24, 2008 by a vote of 395 to 7.”
Section 421 of H.R. 2830 states:
Section 12113 of title 46, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
A fishery endorsement is not required for a United States-documented purse seine tuna fishing vessel home ported in American Samoa while fishing exclusively for highly migratory species under a license issued pursuant to the 1987 Treaty on Fisheries Between the Governments of Certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America in the treaty area or in any portion of the United States exclusive economic zones bordering the treaty area.”
Rosie and Governor Oppose Section 421 Based on ‘Extensive Research’ & ‘Thorough Review’
In a press statement published by Samoa News on September 29, 2008, Ms. Rosie Lancaster says that she ‘strongly supports the Governor’s efforts in contacting Senator Inouye to have [section 421] stricken’ and has issued a call to action based on her ‘extensive research.’”
Ms. Rosie Lancaster states, “On the surface, [section 421] looks very positive however, HOW Title 46 is amended, is where the potential ‘time bomb’ for American Samoa exists… When a fishery endorsement is not required, it ‘nullifies the entire Title 46, section 12108’ and ‘impacts the certificates of documentation as well, which are to certify compliance.’
Rosie’s “Research” is Wrong
“Despite her ‘extensive research,’ Ms. Lancaster has misinterpreted section 421 and has confused and mismatched different sections of Title 46. First of all, section 421 amends section 12113, not section 12108, as section 12108 is no longer a valid citation of federal law which is why H.R. 3669 was updated during the amendment process to reflect the most recent revisions of Title 46.
Secondly, if my opponent had actually understood section 421 of H.R. 2830, she would know that section 421 nullifies nothing. Section 421 only does what it purports to do, which is to allow our new US tuna vessels to fish in the waters of our remote Pacific Island areas including Wake, Johnston, Howland, Baker, Jarvis, Palmyra, and Kingman Reef and, when amended, will close off to the new boats the EEZs of American Samoa, Guam, and CNMI. This fact has been confirmed by legal counsel provided by the US Congressional Research Service (CRS).
“The following facts have also been confirmed by CRS – that all US laws apply to our new US flag tuna boats including the Jones Act, the Oil Spill Pollution Act and numerous other marine safety and navigation laws. US regulations applicable to all US purse seine vessels operating under a license issued pursuant to the 1987 Tuna Treaty are exhaustive. In addition to paying for licenses, Treaty boats are subject to extensive reporting requirements, gear and vessel identification schemes, mandatory vessel monitoring systems, observer requirements, inspections and severe civil penalties for violations.”
Governor Also Misinterprets Federal Law and Misleads Public
“For his part, Governor Togiola states that after a ‘thorough review’ he has reminded Senator Inouye of ASG’s opposition ‘because it would allow foreign owned and foreign controlled fishing operations in the U.S. EEZs in our ocean region’ and that ‘cancelling the current requirement of a U.S. fishing license allows these foreign fishing operations to avoid the conditions it requires, among other things, 75 percent U.S. ownership and controlled fishing operations in U.S. EEZs.’”
“Contrary to the Governor’s misinterpretation of federal law, our new US tuna boats are not foreign controlled or owned. In accordance with US law, our new US tuna boats are registered and documented by the US Coast Guard, fly the US flag, are 51% US majority-owned, and are licensed to fish in the South Pacific Tuna Treaty Area, including the foreign EEZs of the treaty areas of all 16 Pacific Island nations which are party to the agreement.”
“In suggesting that my provision ‘cancels, among other things, the 75 percent U.S. ownership’ requirement, Governor Togiola is wrong again. According to the Congressional Research Service, the American Fisheries Act of 1998 already exempts certain vessels from the 75% ownership requirement. The exempted vessels include: 1) those engaged in fisheries in the U.S. EEZ under the authority of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Hawaii and Pacific Islands), 2) tuna purse seine vessels engaged in tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean outside the U.S. EEZ and, 3) tuna purse seine vessels fishing in the South Pacific Tuna Treaty convention area.”
“For the Governor’s information, according to the Congressional Research Service, prior to 1998, all US flag fishing vessels with a fishery endorsement were required to be 51% US owned. The 1998 law increased the percentage to 75% but exempted the tuna boats described above. Consequently, since 1998, the ‘75 percent U.S. ownership’ requirement has not applied to any boat, new or old which is licensed to fish in the South Pacific Tuna Treaty convention area or engaged in fisheries in the US EEZs under the authority of the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council. In other words, according to the Congressional Research Service, our new tuna boats are exempted from the ‘75% percent U.S. ownership’ requirement as a result of federal law enacted in 1998, not because of any provision I have introduced.”
Rosie is Wrong Again When it Comes to Our Homeland Security and Natural Resources
“Using scare tactics to win support for her cause, “Ms. Lancaster states, ‘We need to act now to support our Governor and protect our Territory from the ‘time bomb’ of ramifications [section 421] presents for our natural fishery resources and homeland security.’”
“On these points, Rosie is wrong again. In no way does Section 421 threaten our homeland security nor will it lead to drug smuggling and human trafficking nor is it a ‘time bomb’ waiting to explode, as Ms. Lancaster claims. Daewoosa was a time bomb waiting to explode, and I am disappointed that Ms. Lancaster’s suggestions about my provision to strengthen the US tuna fishing fleet are as inaccurate as they are mean-spirited.”
“For example, Ms. Lancaster implies that drugs will be smuggled into our Territory based on her false claims that my provision allows for ‘foreign captains’. Again, Ms. Lancaster is wrong about my provision and wrong about federal law. Due to the work of US Senators Daniel Inouye and Ted Stevens, of the 3 officers required to be on board our tuna boats, 2 may be foreign, as I stated earlier, but the captain must be a US licensed officer. Simply put, our new US tuna boats, built in Taiwan, must be captained by a US licensed officer, just like our old tuna boats. This federal law has been in effect since July 11, 2006 and I would encourage Ms. Lancaster to do her homework before making false claims about the work of the United States Senate. Despite Ms. Lancaster’s reckless statements, under no circumstances would the United States Senate ever introduce or support legislation which would threaten our homeland security.”
“Regarding Ms. Lancaster’s accusation that my provision ‘nullifies’ or affects ‘crew apportionment’ and allows for 100% foreign crews on US tuna purse seine vessels,
Rosie is wrong again and should familiarize herself with federal law before making false statements. For Ms. Lancaster’s information, according to the Congressional Research Service, US law already allows all US fishing vessels fishing exclusively for highly migratory species to have 100% foreign crew on board, if they so choose. This is true for our new boats as well as our old boats. This is not my law. This is federal law, which was not authored by me, and if Ms. Lancaster would go on board our old tuna boats, she would see that they, too, are filled with almost 100% foreign crew.”
“Also, for the Governor and Ms. Lancaster’s information, StarKist’s new owner, Chairman Kim Jae-Chul, owns about 20 long-liners and 15 tuna purse seine vessels. His boats are 100% foreign, without a US captain on board, and in all likelihood he may offload his tuna at the StarKist canneries, as he has every right to do since he is purchasing StarKist for some $363 million and making an investment to employ our people for years to come. Using Rosie’s and the Governor’s logic, are they suggesting that Chairman Kim’s boats will threaten our homeland security because they’re not made in America and because they have foreign crew on board? Such logic is ludicrous and I am hopeful that neither will allow their prejudices and lack of understanding about the global tuna industry threaten our economy and the jobs of some 5,000 cannery workers in American Samoa.”
“The fact is the entire US branded tuna industry has gone foreign. Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing is owned by Thai Union, the largest tuna processing company based in Bangkok, Thailand. Bumble Bee is owned by Canadian investors. And, StarKist is soon to be owned by Dongwon, a Korean corporation. Until such time as ASG puts a plan in place to diversify our economy, I would suggest that Ms. Lancaster support our efforts to keep our canneries strong rather than working against those who are investing in our future.”
“Regarding our natural fishery resources, Ms. Rosie Lancaster is wrong on this point, too. Contrary to Ms. Lancaster’s assertion that section 421 would be ‘harmful to our natural fishery resources,’ the US State Department has strongly supported efforts to rebuild the US tuna fishing fleet because, without a US fleet, the South Pacific Tuna Treaty could collapse and our efforts to conserve and manage the Pacific's tuna resources would be irreparably harmed. The US State Department recognizes that having purse seine vessels under the control of the US is infinitely better than trying to influence the fishing activities of foreign flag vessels. Make no mistake, should our efforts to rebuild the US tuna fleet fail, our leadership in fisheries issues will suffer.”
“Rosie’s Time-Bomb is a Dud
“For one who purports to be an expert on the serious issues affecting American Samoa’s future, Ms. Lancaster’s ‘extensive research’ is seriously flawed and her so-called ‘time bomb’ is a dud. Frankly, I believe it is irresponsible for Ms. Lancaster to misinterpret the law and then call for action based on her faulty research,” Faleomavaega said.
“Before ever calling upon our people to mislead a US Senator, I would hope that in the future Ms. Lancaster would exercise better judgment. Also, if Ms. Lancaster is at all interested in understanding the legalities of the provision I have offered to strengthen our US tuna fishing fleet and protect the jobs of our workers, then I would invite her to do her homework before endangering our economy, our environment, and the welfare of our people.”
“I have repeatedly stated that my support for the new fleet is based on my firm belief that these new US tuna vessels offer the best opportunity to protect the jobs of our cannery workers and, therefore, I stand by my provision. Again, my position is supported by the majority of the entire U.S. tuna fishing fleet including new boats and old, the US House of Representatives which passed my provision on April 24, 2008 as section 421 in H.R. 2830, and all three U.S. branded tuna companies including Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing, StarKist, and Bumble Bee. Uninformed on this point, too, Ms. Lancaster states that the letters from ‘the big three’ tuna companies don’t count because their letters ‘are from their international bosses, not from the canneries themselves.’ Given that American Samoa’s economy is more than 80% dependent either directly or indirectly on the tuna fishing and processing industries, I would encourage Ms. Lancaster to ‘heavily research’ how business works before suggesting that the letters of support from ‘the big three’ are irrelevant. The fact is, our canneries are owned by their international bosses.”
“In response to Ms. Lancaster’s questions about how bills are introduced and how Congress works, I would refer Ms. Lancaster to my press release of August 28, 2008 in which I explained the legislative process in response to similar questions raised by Mrs. Aumua Amata Radewagen.”
“Finally, while the Governor and Ms. Rosie Lancaster are free to use my provision as a political ploy to further their own agendas, the only agenda I am interested in is putting the people of American Samoa first. As far as I am concerned, American Samoa must look to the future. It would be a huge mistake for American Samoa to rely solely on an old fleet of vessels that are 30 to 40 years old to continue to supply fish to our canneries for years to come. According to some tuna boat owners, even Joe Finete, who only owns two boats, has sold one of his two boats to Ecuador and is looking to sell his other boat.”
“While StarKist currently has a contract with Tri-Marine for the delivery of its fish, this may change with Dongwon. For sure, Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing needs our new tuna boats as a backup to make sure it has the fish it needs, and the jobs we want.
However, as I have explained, US law precludes our new tuna boats from fishing in the US EEZs of the uninhabited atolls of Wake, Johnston, Howland and Baker, Jarvis, Palmyra, and Kingman Reef, which are closer in proximity to American Samoa. Because our new tuna boats cannot fish in these waters, they are currently fishing in the vicinity of PNG and the Solomon Islands, which is why it makes more sense for them to ship to Bangkok rather than American Samoa at this time.”
“So, for the time being, Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing is using these boats to furnish fish to Thai-Union, which in turn allows Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing to purchase fish from vessels fishing closer to American Samoa. With the passage of my provision, if our new boats are allowed to fish in the Baker-Howland area which is closer to American Samoa, it will make more sense for them to offload in American Samoa and become a direct, rather than an indirect, supplier to our canneries.”
“Either way, it is not and has not and will not be my intent to displace our older tuna boats but I believe it is in American Samoa’s best interest to modernize our fleet so that we can ensure that we have enough fish coming into our canneries. Whether or not this fish comes in directly or indirectly, what is most important is that we make sure our canneries have a reliable source of fish. Without boats, we have no fish. Without fish, we have no canneries. Without canneries, our people will be without jobs because our leaders could not find ways to provide a constant supply of fish. I certainly don’t want to be that leader who causes one or both of our canneries to close, or our workers to lose their jobs.”
“This is what we are facing, but I have full confidence that our people will use their own judgment to decide who will represent their interests in the Congress, and that decision will be made this year during our elections on November 4. For now, due to the financial crisis are government is trying to resolve, the US Senate was unable to take up H.R. 2830, of which my provision is a very small part. However, if reelected, I definitely plan to reintroduce the provision, or bill, in the next Congress,” Faleomavaega concluded.