25 Nov 2010

Togiola urges Pacific to treat tuna as a resource like oil

6:06 pm on 25 November 2010

American Samoa's governor told fisheries ministers and officials meeting in the Marshall Islands that Pacific nations must use their control over lucrative tuna-filled waters to take control of the industry for the benefit of the islands.

Togiola Tulafono says tuna is the Pacific's oil and should be treated it in the same manner as oil producing countries treat their resource.

The governor, whose territory hosts one tuna cannery and another that closed last year, delivered the keynote speech to the Parties to the Nauru Agreement - the eight countries that control an ocean area where 25 percent of the world's tuna is caught.

Tulafono says Pacific islands cannot compete against Thailand canneries, which currently have a corner on the tuna market and set prices because of low costs.

He says most Pacific-caught tuna goes to Thailand for canning, which serves to depress prices and undermined efforts to develop a tuna industry in the islands.

However, he says Thailand cannot do much without tuna, and the PNA has the power to manage where tuna is unloaded and set the price.

The meeting in Majuro is expected to endorse new tuna control measures aimed at giving the islands greater control, including a plan to close fishing in a large high seas area about the size of the continental United States.