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Country Highlights

Tuna as a Safe-Haven in Samoa

For generations, Starkist and Chicken of the Sea canneries have been the lifeblood of local communities – providing jobs that form the backbone of American Samoa’s economy. At their peak, over 4,000 islanders worked the lines, exporting over $500 million worth of canned tuna yearly.

But the last 15 years have brought an onslaught of cheaper overseas competition in the tuna market. Output has plunged by 50% as plants have cut staffing in half. Experts warn another 2,000 jobs could soon be on the line.

Upgrading port infrastructure could include expanding dock space and installing modern conveyor systems, refrigerated warehouses and packaging facilities. This would allow larger volumes of tuna catch to be processed and packaged for export more efficiently.

Retraining programs should focus on modern processing, quality control and equipment maintenance skills. Partnerships with technical schools could develop certificate programs to credential workers for new roles overseeing automated lines.

On the policy front, lobbying for trade concessions and catch quotas from regional bodies like the South Pacific Tuna Treaty could boost competitiveness. Subsidies for plant upgrades tied to job creation performance metrics would help modernization pay off.

Beyond logistics, preserving these industrial jobs is about sustaining a crucial pillar of the island’s socio-economic fabric. With the right strategic interventions and policy support and cooperation between stakeholders, American Samoa’s tuna catch can certainly continue anchoring prosperity for years to come.

There’s still hope to turn the tide. Investing $200 million to upgrade old ports and make factories more modern and efficient could make the plants globally competitive again. Retraining programs can also ensure experienced Samoan workers have the skills to operate new equipment.

It’s about more than just business logistics. Saving these remaining cannery jobs means preserving a way of life that has touched generations in the island’s close-knit communities. With some strategic upgrades and policy backing, American Samoa’s tuna catch can still anchor the local economy into the future.

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