|| Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is welcoming Greenpeace to American Samoa.
“On behalf of the people of American Samoa, I want to welcome Greenpeace and their flagship, the Esperanza, to Pago Pago, and I applaud their efforts to protect our tuna resources and to ensure that the peoples of the Pacific have a healthy and sustainable tuna industry throughout the coming generations,” Faleomavaega said.
“We have seen all too clearly the damage done by irresponsible fishing in this region. Transshipping, the use of fish aggregating devices, and unregulated fishing in the high seas have caused tremendous harm to tuna populations and to the local economies that depend on them. If we are to maintain a productive and economically viable future for American Samoa, we must stop supporting companies, like Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee, that are damaging our resources and our way of life. Instead, we should shift our purchasing power to reward those companies, like StarKist, that are investing in the future of the U.S. as well as Pacific island nations and in maintaining and protecting the tuna populations that sustain us.”
“StarKist is the only brand of canned tuna that continues to cook and clean its fish in America. Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee, on the other hand, outsource American jobs by exploiting cheap labor in foreign countries. For example, in 2009, one day after American Samoa was hit by a powerful earthquake that set off a massive tsunami from which the Territory has not fully recovered, Chicken of the Sea – after doing business in American Samoa for some 50-years, closed its operations in American Samoa without the courtesy of discussion and outsourced some 2,000 of our jobs to its parent company, Thai Union, in Thailand where fish cleaners are paid less than $0.75 cents per hour. In order to take advantage of U.S. duty-free laws, Chicken of the Sea then hired a skeletal crew of about 200 workers in Lyons, Georgia to put the pre-cleaned fish from Thailand into cans for final packaging.”
“Let me repeat. Chicken of the Sea is owned by Thai Union, the world’s largest producer of canned tuna and the leader in supplying tuna to the United States. This means that every time you open up a can of tuna from Chicken of the Sea, you will find tuna that has been cooked and cleaned in Thailand where workers are paid $0.75 cents and less per hour.”
“And Bumble Bee is no different. Bumble Bee, owned by Lion Capital, a British private equity firm, employs about 500 fish cleaners in the U.S. But like Chicken of the Sea, the bulk of Bumble Bee’s fish cleaners are not U.S., but foreign workers employed in low-wage countries.”
“The USDA has caught on to Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee’s un-American way of doing business and this is why canned tuna processed by Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee does not qualify for the Buy America program. StarKist is the only company that qualifies for the USDA’s Buy America program, and I hope American consumers will reward StarKist accordingly and hold Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee more accountable for outsourcing our jobs and resources.”
“I also hope the U.S. Department of State will renegotiate the South Pacific Tuna Treaty in a way that ends the transshipment of tuna to foreign nations. For boats like those of the South Pacific Tuna Corporation which are 51% US, and 49% Taiwanese owned, I say -- send your tuna to American ports since the U.S. taxpayers is subsidizing your right to fish in the South Pacific Tuna Treaty Area. Of the 300,000 metric tons of tuna that is caught by the U.S. tuna fishing fleet in the Tuna Treaty area, more than 180,000 metric tons is transshipped and outsourced to foreign nations like Thailand, and this un-American practice, which is also linked back to employees and/or officials of Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee, must stop.”
“I applaud the U.S. tuna boats that direct-deliver to the U.S. Territory of American Samoa and I thank StarKist for purchasing the bulks of its tuna from these boats. I also want to ask all tuna vessels to end the use of fish aggregating devices, also known as FADs. It is indisputable that FADs incur five to ten times as much bycatch as seine sets on free-swimming schools of skipjack tuna. FADs also attract juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna into seine nets intended for skipjack. Currently it is estimated that approximately 15% -20% of the total catch of a given seiner that uses FADs is actually composed of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin. This is causing significant harm to yellowfin and bigeye populations, as these juveniles are taken before they are allowed an opportunity to reproduce and to bolster their stock health.”
“Scientists have told us for years that the mortality of these juvenile bigeye and yellowfin due to FAD use is a large part of what is causing the ongoing depletion of bigeye and yellowfin populations. Moreover, FADs allow distant water fishing nations a distinct advantage over Pacific island nations due to their use of radio beacons. To ensure a productive and equitable tuna industry throughout the Pacific, we must ban the use of offshore FADs entirely. This will greatly eliminate bycatch issues, provide protection for juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna, and level the playing field so Pacific island nations and American Samoa have a greater ability to manage and profit from our proprietary tuna resources.”
“American Samoa also supports the conservation initiatives set forth by the Parties to the Nauru agreement, including banning fishing in the high seas pockets and ending the practice of setting seines on whale sharks. We support Greenpeace in its ongoing efforts to promote a sustainable and equitable tuna industry, and we strongly urge consumers throughout the United States to avoid products from tuna companies such as Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee that Greenpeace is actively campaigning against. These companies must change their ways if we are to have tuna – and tuna industry jobs – in the future, and Greenpeace and the people of American Samoa need your help in making this happen. For more than 50-years, the U.S. tuna industry was built off the backs of Samoan workers. To this day, more than 80% of our economy hinges on this industry. American Samoa should not lose its way of life just because Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee choose to outsource fish cleaning jobs to low-wage workers in foreign countries where they don’t even pay them a living wage.”
“And while Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee may try and discredit our workforce, the truth of the matter is our fish cleaners are Samoan. They live and work in the U.S. Territory of American Samoa. They are legal permanent residents paid in accordance with U.S. federal minimum wage laws. Many are married to our U.S. nationals and citizens. We are one and the same people. And we stand together in asking the American public to support StarKist and Greenpeace.”
“StarKist is a U.S. corporation, pays U.S. taxes and is a subsidiary of the Dongwon Group, a leader in the food, beverage and fisheries industries in South Korea. Dongwon’s Chairman Kim Jae-chul began his career as a fisherman in American Samoa and purchased StarKist from the Del Monte Corporation for some $363 million because of his affection for the people of American Samoa.”
“His goal has been to create jobs, jobs, jobs in the U.S. Territory of American Samoa. The men and women of American Samoa serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in record numbers. As reported by USA Today, which commended American Samoa for its outsized sacrifice, the Iraq war death rate per 1 million population is higher for American Samoa than any other State or Territory.”
“We are proud of our service to America and proud of having been the backbone of the U.S. tuna industry for more than 50-years. For more than 50-years, about 80% of our private-sector economy has hinged, either directly or indirectly, on the U.S. tuna fishing and processing industries. We need your help in making sure we continue to keep our industry and economy strong and, once more, we thank Greenpeace and StarKist for standing with us,” Faleomavaega concluded.