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Turtle Bay

Empacadora de Bahia Tortugas

Kondo Masaharu was a pioneer of the West Coast fishing industry. He was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1877 and attended the Tokyo Tekoku Daigaku (Tokyo Imperial University) where he majored in agriculture. After graduation Kondo began to teach at the Imperial Fisheries Institute of Tokyo where he was eventually appointed to the school’s Board of Commissioners. While serving in this capacity, he was appointed to undertake a tour of the world to investigate the state of fishing technology outside Japan. The first country on his itinerary was the United States.

Shortly after his arrival in the United States in 1908, Kondo visited the Los Angeles-San Pedro area to observe at first hand the activities of the fishing fleet. It was through acquaintances in Los Angeles that he met and became involved with Aurelio Sandoval, a resident of Los Angeles, who was head of the International Fisheries Company which held an exclusive concession from the Díaz government to the fisheries of Baja California. Sandoval wanted to develop the Mexican fisheries but lacked the necessary capital and so approached Kondo on the possibility of large scale Japanese financing.

The Mexican Revolution of 1910 notwithstanding, Sandoval, with the assistance of French investors, opened a small lobster cannery in Baja California on Santa Margarita Island in Magdalena Bay. Then, in 1912 Kondo returned to the United States with the necessary financial backing and obtained concessions to fish on the west coast of Baja California from both Sandoval and the Madero government. As part of the agreement with Sandoval, Kondo assumed ownership of the canning operation at Magdalena Bay.

From 1920 to 1923 the abalone and tuna operations prospered to such a degree that Kondo once again decided to return to Japan to seek financing for two additional projects. The major thrust of this trip was to raise money to build a cannery at Turtle Bay which would allow the tuna catch to be processed in Mexico, and then shipped directly to the markets in Japan and the United States. With assurances of financial support, Kondo and Hisahira formed the Taiyo Sangyo Gaisha (Southern Commercial Company) in the spring of 1924. The new company was later incorporated in California in 1927 as the Oceans Industry Company.

At the time the cannery was started, there were approximately fifty Mexican labourers also working for the Taiyo Sangyo Gaisha who lived on the site with their families. It is estimated that there were approximately three hundred and fifty people living at the bay in 1928.

The completion of the cannery brought a kind of economic prosperity to Turtle Bay that had been unknown up to that time. At first, as Kondo’s men began to train Mexican workers to operate the cannery, they found it was easier to pay the Mexicans in coins minted by the L. A. Rubber Stamp Co., which were redeemable at a company run store; later they were paid in dollarsDon Estes, “Kondo Masaharu And The Best Of All Fisherman” in The Journal of San Diego History, Summer 1977, Volume 23, Number 3.

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