Turning a Fish into a Brand: A Century of Rent-Seeking Strategies in the Tuna Canning Industry Public Deposited

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  • Over the past century, the tuna canning industry has been dominated by a few big companies, some of them having changed of ownership or merged: these oligopolistic firms are the “big three” in the USA, Van Camp, Star Kist, and Bumble Bee, the French Saupiquet, the Italian Trinity Alimentari and the Spanish Calvo in Europe, and, a bit later, the Thailandese groups Thai Union and Sea Value. Specialized in the canning of seafood, if not exclusively in tuna canning, these firms are key operators on the international markets for raw material or processed products and benefit from the reputation of their private brands. This paper depicts the history of the world tuna canning industry throughout the past century, providing a synthesis of the abundant but dispersed literature on the subject, with an emphasis on the major companies of this industry. An analytical framework is proposed, mixing up some evidence regarding the rent-seeking strategies followed by leading companies and the various forms of rents which have been identified in the literature by both fisheries and business economists: resource scarcity rent, infra-marginal rent of producers (productivity rent), technological rent (increasing returns to scale and innovations in the fishing and processing industries), quasi-monopoly rent or reputation rent (due to the horizontal differentiation from advertising) and organisational rent (in relation to the new international division of labour). The discussion suggests that the basic principles of fisheries sustainable management are somehow challenged by the economic objectives of an industry enjoying such a variety of rents.
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  • Mongruel, Rémi, Patrice Guillotreau, Juan José García del Hoyo and Ramón Jiménez-Toribio. 2010. Turning a Fish into a Brand: A Century of Rent-Seeking Strategies in the Tuna Canning Industry. 12 pages. In: Proceedings of the Fifteenth Biennial Conference of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics & Trade, July 13-16, 2010, Montpellier, France: Economics of Fish Resources and Aquatic Ecosystems: Balancing Uses, Balancing Costs. Compiled by Ann L. Shriver. International Institute of Fisheries Economics & Trade, Corvallis, Oregon, USA, 2010.
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