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Star-Kist tuna cannery's 1,000 employees

Star-Kist tuna cannery’s 1,000 employees

Aug. 1974: More than 1,000 women employees work at the Star-Kist tuna cannery on Terminal Island.

The above photo by staff photographer John Malmin was taken when thousands worked at several canneries on Terminal Island. By 1985, Star-Kist had closed the cannery in Malmin’s photo.

Staff writer Melinda Fulmer reported in the Aug. 2, 2001, Los Angeles Times on the closure of the last tuna cannery in the U.S., run by Chicken of the Sea:

One of Southern California’s oldest industries will vanish this fall when tuna giant Chicken of the Sea International closes its San Pedro cannery. It is not only the last tuna cannery in the harbor, it is the last full-scale tuna canning plant in the U.S.

Chicken of the Sea officials said Wednesday they will close the San Pedro plant and lay off its 250 workers because the cost of doing business in California is too high and the tuna catch too small.

The country’s No. 3 tuna company, which was bought in December by a Thai food firm, will keep a warehouse at the port to distribute its tuna, which will be produced entirely at its huge cannery in American Samoa. That plant is being expanded to compensate for the loss of the San Pedro plant, which processes about 100 tons of tuna and salmon a day, about a tenth of the company’s total production.

“It’s tough right now to make any money in the tuna industry,” said Dennis Mussell, Chicken of the Sea president. “In San Pedro we’ve got higher operating costs. We can import tuna from other places, but it’s more expensive to do it that way.” The plant closing marks the end of an era for Los Angeles County, which at its peak had more than 18 canneries, providing jobs for 17,000 people, as well as the 2,000 fishermen selling them their catches. The industry was so critical to the local economy that Los Angeles County put a tuna in its official seal.

In the 1970s and ’80s, however, fishermen and canneries began moving out of the harbor to lower-wage areas such as Samoa and Puerto Rico, leaving empty buildings behind on Tuna, Barracuda and Cannery streets. And shipping companies began moving in, taking waterfront property in which to stack their huge containers.

This photo was first published in the Aug. 5, 1974, Los Angeles Times accompanying a story on the status of the fishing industry in San Pedro.  It was later published on Aug. 2, 2001, accompanying Fulmer’s 2001 story.

Fulmer’s full story is online:  “It’s the End of the Line for L.A. Harbor’s Chicken of the Sea Canning Operation.”

1 Comment

  1. July 23, 2013, 7:57 am

    One of my most memorable field trips in grade school in the 1950's was to a tuna company in San Pedro. I was in the 2nd grade and was amazed at the way the fish was handled by the ladies. I just couldn't stand the smell.

    By: rafachavez

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