Still Stranded: San Diego Father Unable to Return Home Since March

Pete Battaglia and dozens of other San Diegans working in the tuna industry are stuck in American Samoa after the U.S. territory shut down commercial travel amid COVID-19 concerns

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It's hard to believe, but Pete Battaglia’s two-week work trip to American Samoa is now approaching six months and there is still no end in sight.

Battaglia is a long-time navigator in the tuna industry and runs U.S. boats out of American Samoa, which along with being a U.S. territory is also one of our country’s tuna hubs.

While Battaglia and his crew were out at sea at the beginning of March, the COVID-19 pandemic led to new travel restrictions across the world.

The fishermen returned to port to find customs agents in hazmat gear and commercial travel suspended to and from the island.

They've literally been held captive, held hostage on an island

Trisha Battaglia

The small island had gone into serious lockdown, but Battaglia believed his departure would be delayed only by a matter of weeks.

Weeks have now turned into months and their family members fear their return could be well past Christmas.

"They've literally been held captive, held hostage on an island that people think is beautiful. It's all serene, but if they can get off a boat, they can only go up and down a dock" said Trisha Battaglia, Pete’s wife.

Trisha and her husband communicate daily through text and video chats.
She sends him pictures of their three sons, who have all graduated high school, but are now back living under the same Scripps Ranch roof due to COVID-19 closures and restrictions.

Pete has missed out on everything from graduation parades, to birthdays, to holidays. Trisha estimates more than a hundred American citizens who work in the tuna fishing industry are currently stuck in American Samoa and says the majority are from San Diego.

She says the uncertainty is starting to wear on her husband and the crew members.

"I think the frustration is, there's no urgency and I just feel like, a lot of us tuna fishing wives feel like they're a forgotten entity," said Trisha Battaglia who has written the U.S. Department of State requesting help, but hasn’t heard back.

Even if governmental leaders stepped in with a solution, Trisha says her husband couldn’t and wouldn’t leave without getting a replacement.

It would be like abandoning ship if he left without a replacement and right now no one is getting into or out of American Samoa.

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