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Bumble Bee Buys Tuna Surplus

October 22, 1998

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) _ Hoping to keep West Coast tuna fishermen afloat, Bumble Bee Seafoods will buy much of the remaining glut of albacore and launch a line of canned tuna that will labeled American-caught.

The 2,000 tons Bumble Bee agreed to buy won’t completely make up for the glut that began when Asian catchers were unable to sell tuna in their own countries because of the economic crisis.

``Some of the guys who were in bad financial shape will definitely go out of business no matter what happens,″ said Wayne Heikkila, manager of the West Coast Fishboat Owners Association. ``Something like this could start being an outlet for some of our fish where we haven’t had it.″

The move announced Wednesday comes less than a week after the Department of Agriculture committed to buying $4 million worth of stockpiled tuna _ about 1,250 tons _ for food banks and homeless shelters.

The Bumble Bee purchase brings to about 10,000 tons that American canneries have bought this year from the 550-boat West Coast tuna fleet. That compares to 13,000 tons last year and 15,000 in 1996.

Starkist and Chicken of the Sea have been buying limited amounts, but Bumble Bee is the first brand to agree to the fishermen’s plea for an American-caught label.

Bumble Bee is the nation’s leading seller of canned albacore tuna. President Mark Koob said his company plans to have cans carrying the red, white and blue ``Bumble Bee Limited Catch American Albacore″ label on store shelves by early December.

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