U.S. considers Solomon Islands tuna plant investment

The United States is considering investing in a tuna-canning facility under construction in the Solomon Islands.

The United States, Australia, and New Zealand have been competing with China for influence in the Pacific.

China organised a summit with Pacific Island countries in December 2021 to further cooperation in fisheries and has been funding infrastructure projects in the region through its Belt and Road Initiative. In May 2022, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), comprised of the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia, began offering satellite-based intelligence to Pacific nations, focusing on smaller Pacific Island nations where China has been building a greater economic and political presence. And it has committed to opening new embassies in Tonga, Kiribati, and the Solomon Islands, and granting sovereign status to New Zealand territories Niue and the Cook Islands.

In September 2022, at the United States-Pacific Island Country Summit, U.S. President Joe Biden said he will push for the U.S. Congress to supply USD$60 million (EUR55.2 million) per year for the next decade, or USD$600 million  total for a new economic assistance agreement with the Forum Fisheries Agency. That would triple the funding currently provided by the U.S. to the FFA. Much of the funding will go toward the South Pacific Tuna Treaty, which funds fishing-permit fees for U.S. trawlers to operate in the exclusive economic zones of most Pacific Island nations.

“A great deal of the history of our world is going to be written in the Indo-Pacific over the coming years and decades. And the Pacific islands are a critical voice in shaping that future,” U.S. President Joe Biden told representatives from 14 Pacific island nations attending the event. “And that’s why my administration has made it a priority to strengthen our partnership with your countries.”

Every year, around 150,000 metric tons of tuna is caught in the exculsive economic zone of the Solomon Islands, the equivalent of around 7 percent of the total catch in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. While tuna caught in the Solomons’ EEZ has an estimated value of USD$180 million (but much of the fishing in its waters is done by foreign fishing vessels under licensing agreements and processed elsewhere due to a lack of onshore processing capacity, FFA reported. The Bina Harbour Tuna Processing Plant will be the Solomon Islands’ second tuna-processing facility after the SolTuna factory in Buno.