But today, Starkist’s dominance as well as its very existence in American Samoa is not just at risk, it’s at the cliff’s edge.
The main problems? A declining market generally for processed tuna products, down 40 percent in the three decades ending in 2017. An American Samoa- mandated minimum wage for its vast workforce that’s three and four times the wage paid to cannery workers in other countries in the region like Thailand. A $100 million dollar fine levied against Starkist last September after the company admitted its role in a price-fixing conspiracy, with potentially crippling consumer lawsuits still pending. And finally, an increasingly bitter dispute over which boats get to fish which waters.
Consider these locally-based longline boats, boats over 100 feet long that spool out miles of line and thousands of hooks in a single set, often returning with more than 30 tons of prized albacore tuna. They’ve fished this way for decades.
Carlos Sanchez is a veteran longliner, but he’s in the process of giving it up.