South Pacific Tuna Corporation (SPTC) announced today that is selling more than half of its 14 U.S.-flagged purse seine fishing vessels to foreign operators, reducing its fleet to six by the end of the year. Approximately 12 U.S. captains and their crew will be relieved of duty. Additionally, the San Diego-based office and management team will be reduced to support the downsized fleet.
The sale of the vessels represents a reduction of 70,000 tons of US-produced tuna, which will increase the U.S. seafood trade deficit by $80M to $100M USD annually. The move also reduces the volume of sustainable FAD-free, MSC certified fish for the global tuna market, including fish supplied under the Pacifical program. SPTC will continue to supply sustainably harvested tuna to its current customers with its remaining operations.
“Our fleet reduction is due in part to the U.S. government’s continued lack of support and the lack of interest in ratifying the 1988 South Pacific Tuna Treaty, renegotiated in 2016,” said SPTC Executive Director J. Douglas Hines. “Despite our efforts to work with the Trump Administration, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has not reciprocated and continues its overly aggressive compliance and enforcement actions.”
NOAA compliance authorities have made it virtually impossible for the U.S. distant water tuna fleet to compete against the fleets from China, Korea and Taiwan. Unlike foreign competitors who are strongly supported by their governments, the U.S. fleet faces policies by its own government that are non-supportive and essentially anti-industry and anti-trade.
With the withdrawal of the U.S. fleet from the Western Pacific, the United States’ influence in those waters will continue to decline as China, Korea, and Russia take a larger role in the region.
“In the global priorities of the U.S. Government, the Western Pacific has become an afterthought,” said Hines. “But as Pres. Ronald Reagan recognized in 1988, the South Pacific Tuna Treaty is a critical step to ensuring American vessels and commerce continue to lead in the region and the world. The reduction of the U.S. fleet will be a devastating blow for the international policy community as well as the Western Pacific sustainable fishery ecosystem.”
“It is a sad day for us all after fighting all these years as we see the end of long legacy of Tuna harvesting by U.S. interest,” Hines added. “However, we leave with pride of years of fighting to improve the region.”
SPTC will continue to evaluate the opportunities and challenges for its remaining U.S.-flagged purse seine operations as it continues to operate the balance of its fleet, but with guarded hope.
Media inquiries may be directed to Margie Newman of Intesa Communications Group: margie (at) intesacom (dot) com | 619-995-3078.