Climate Change Shows Growing Challenges to Multi-Million Dollar American Samoa Tuna Fishery

Image: Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

A new report from the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) highlights the growing challenge of climate change to the multi-million-dollar tuna industry in American Samoa.

As sea level continues to rise, the future of businesses like the StarKist Samoa cannery, located at sea level in Pago Pago Harbor, are in question. The cannery provides over 80% of private employment in American Samoa, as well as nationals of other Pacific Island countries and territories, including Samoa, Niue, Tokelau and Tonga.

Tuna exports from American Samoa are valued at some $353 million annually, with canned tuna comprising 99.5% of the total. “Loss of this industry due to the implications of climate change would be devastating to American Samoa and the communities it supports, the WPRDMC said.

Much of the work focusing on climate resilient fisheries in the Western Pacific is the result of efforts led by the council, NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and Pacific Islands Regional Office, with funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Collaborative efforts have led to development of the key objectives of the strategy, including creation of a robust management strategy for a changing climate, understanding how and why things are changing, tracking changes and providing early warnings.

NOAA hosts annual collaborative climate workshops to address the vulnerability of the islands in the Western Pacific Region. The goal of these workshops is to prioritize research needs and indicate how managers may respond to changing climate conditions to support the Pacific islands.

The next workshop is scheduled to take place in the autumn of 2023.