San Pedro has always been a fishing town, and their biggest catch--the tuna. Seven years?
San Pedro has always been a fishing town, and their biggest catch--the tuna. Seven years ago there were 125 boats in the purse seine fleet. Today there are 38 - 4 less this month than last. Those that remain barely survive.
Yesterday a diverse group comprised of canners, labour leaders, big and small boat owners met at the one of the major canneries on Terminal Island to seek a solution to their common problem. The cause of the problem - cheap canned and fresh-frozen tuna from Japan, being imported in increasing quantities. The only answer this group felt lies in obtaining new tariff quota protection that limits imports to 35%. Hearings on these are currently underway in Congress before the House ways and Means Committee. The tuna fleet has always been a family affair, with whole families owning boats and the new generations supplanting the old in time. The young men aren't coming into the fleet anymore. The average age now is 51. The second and third generations Slavs, Italians and Portuguese are getting jobs in refineries and aircraft factories, but the oldsters know no other trade. Some would see the boats which represent investments of from 50 to 750 thousand dollars, but there are no buyers. San Pedro formerly had the highest per capita income on the West Coast, now as one leader puts it "we're on our last legs." In the earlier forties, merchants and the marine equipment companies flourished. Boatyards supplemented the fishing industry. This is the last tuna boat built in San Pedro. It is 11 years old. The U. S. consumed 700 million cans of tuna last year, will eat more this year, but the Californians contend that they can't maintain a well paid labour force and high sanitary standards in the face of foreign wage rates an dropping tonnage prizes. The problem is that diplomacy gets mixed up with economics. Reciprocal trade against regional good. The argument for freer world trade; also that Japan now buys twice as much from us as we sell to Japan.
The fishermen contend in turn unlimited imports could put our tuna prices at the mercy of a foreign monopoly --if they don't get help. And they say, "We're Americans. We have a right to live."