Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Oregon, Northern California Ports Offer Vital Socioeconomic Network


Oregon’s 363-mile coastline features a network of 15 seaports, large and small, integral to their communities’ lifestyles and economies. Collectively, they comprise “an important regional network of maritime infrastructure,” according to the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association (OCZMA), which studies the Oregon coast economy and conveys information to an extensive network of government officials and others, aimed at enhancing the region’s standard of living.

A May 2014 study – backed by the Oregon Ports Association and port managers - indicated that one of every six jobs in Oregon are port-related, either directly or indirectly tied to cargo, recreation, industrial, commercial and other activities at Oregon’s ports.

The Little Port That Can

Garibaldi, Oregon nestles at the northern end of Tillamook Bay, and encompasses the cities of Bay City, Garibaldi and Rockaway Beach.

The marina features 277 moorage slips and serves as homeport to about 30 commercial fishing vessels. Average annual catch landed at the port is about 1.5 million pounds valued at about $3 million. The port is home to shrimp, crab and fish processing facilities. Port-related businesses provide 647 jobs overall, and marine-related production adds about $10 million annually to the local economy. The harbor is also home to US Coast Guard Station Tillamook Bay.

The Port of Garibaldi and the Oregon State Marine Board have made “significant investments” in docks, slips and a public boat launch to capitalize on the port’s access to Tillamook Bay and the Pacific Ocean for recreational purposes. Construction is also underway to rehabilitate the commercial wharf. Port officials want to maintain the port as “a catalyst for economic development,” with a diverse mix of business, industry, commercial, and recreational activities, and enhance its character as a vital Northwest fishing port.

Toward that end, they completed a strategic business plan in 2010, which lays out priority projects and strategies designed “to enhance the economic future of the Port and the community of Garibaldi.” They also put the finishing touches on a master plan for the port in November 2014.

Education and health services; leisure and hospitality; transportation, communication and utilities; retail trade; government and professional services have been determined to be the quickest-growing areas of potential commerce. Food processing, durable goods manufacturing, wholesale trade, and construction should experience moderate growth.

“Very little growth is forecasted to occur in fishing (natural resources),” the plans noted. “However, recreational and commercial demand for marina facilities is expected to occur over the long term.”

The plans also note the impact on the port’s commercial fishing fleet by the Cape Falcon Marine Reserve to the north and the Cascade Head Marine Reserve to the south, “as well as any future north coast marine reserves.” Port officials worked with local and state government agencies “to better understand marine reserves and their potential impacts on the fishing and fisheries.” In 2007, the port commissioners adopted a resolution opposing marine reserves.

Port officials say they would remain active in this discussion, and are “extremely concerned about any further impacts or threats to an already heavily regulated fishing industry.”

Little Sisters

About an hour’s journey from the coast up the Yaquina River, the Port of Toledo offers moorage for only a few commercial vessels, but offers a boatyard at Sturgeon Bend. Port Manager Bud Shoemake said they oversee the facility as a public boatyard operated by private industry under contract with the port. As a result, the port offers fishermen a do-it-yourself facility with access to “the best service possible” through its group of preferred and approved independent contractors. Shoemake calls the open yard a “one-stop shop” for maintenance and vessel preparation, offering a full range of services for vessels up to 100 feet long and 46 feet wide.

Fishermen say they like having the option on the easily navigable, well-marked Yaquina River.

On Oregon’s central coast, Depoe Bay is a tiny haven several miles north of Newport. It offers refuge and services for those who navigate its narrow entrance under the Highway 101 bridge. The harbor is also home to USCG Station Depoe Bay.

For years, the tiny bay served as a safe harbor for commercial vessels taking refuge from storms, and today it acts as home port for a handful of commercial vessels, along with a limited number of charter boats and private launches. Fishermen say navigating the stone entrance – often referred to as “shooting the hole” – requires strategy and caution. With an entry less than 50 feet wide and 300 feet long, the harbor managers require a standard procedure when entering or leaving.

Skippers are asked to go to VHF channel 80 and announce their intentions. If they get the “all clear,” they know they can safely avoid disastrous consequences. Most crews know to give one long horn blast on the way out, two long blasts on the way in. Inbound vessels get priority. Vessels longer than 50 feet must get special clearance from Coast Guard officials.

Big Sisters

Newport and Astoria are prime examples of what ports can do in socioeconomic terms, not only for their commercial fishing fleets, but coastal communities and the state.

Vessels from British Columbia to central California ply the waters off Oregon’s central coast, periodically selling their catch in Newport or Depoe Bay. Newport-based vessels participating in the crab, salmon and tuna fisheries sometimes sell their catches in other ports in Oregon, California, or Washington.

About 248 commercial fishing vessels make Oregon’s central coast their homeport – most of them in Newport, with a few each in Depoe Bay and Toledo, according to port officials. Fishermen say there are nearly 500 commercial fishing vessels in the area, including vessels home ported elsewhere, but fish off of Oregon’s central coast. A few are distant water vessels that spend most of their fishing year in Alaska, returning to Oregon for maintenance and repairs, and to sometimes participate in the Dungeness crab and whiting fisheries.

The Port of Newport features 206 commercial vessel slips, 54 waterway related businesses, and a distant water fleet that annually brings in between $14 million and $32 million to the local economy. The port is also home to US Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay and National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Operations Center-Pacific, which opened in 2011 under a 20-year lease after the port took on a $38 million project to build the facility. A recently-completed renovation of the port’s international terminal provides a 17-acre site with 1,000 feet of deep draft waterfront, docks and storage facilities, and several acres of industrial land. To varying degrees, the ports of Newport, Depoe Bay and Toledo provide services to commercial vessels of all sizes, ranging from 18 feet to 126 feet long and valued anywhere from $5,000 to $3 million apiece.

Located at the northwestern tip of Oregon where the Columbia River feeds into the Pacific Ocean, the Port of Astoria manages a combination of commercial and recreational marine, marina, industrial and aviation facilities, and leases property for industrial and commercial services, including fish processing plants.

Home to 138 commercial fishing vessels, the port provides commercial berthing, seafood processing and fleet support. Pier 1 and Pier 2 are its primary deep water piers, with most commercial fishing services offered at Pier 2, with three fish processors, a 71,800-square-foot multi-tenant warehouse, fish off-loading and net haul-out areas, and a dock that can accommodate vessels as long as 1,100 feet. Maintenance, repair, active and inactive services are available at the Pier 3 haul-out boatyard at Tongue Point.

An economic impact study commissioned by port officials in 2009 showed that the port and its tenant generated about $110 million in direct revenue, including $59 million at the piers and associated upland areas, and $17 million at the marinas and boatyard.

California’s Port System

California’s 840-mile coastline features 46 ports of varying sizes and capabilities. Leaders of the California Fisheries Coalition, which represents 27 marine-related organizations, say fish and shellfish brought to those ports and marketed statewide, nationally and overseas by more than 14,000 fishermen and more than 200 seafood companies, contributes more than $5.5 billion annually to California’s economy.

Located 170 miles north of San Francisco, Noyo Harbor and adjacent Fort Bragg are situated near highly productive fishing grounds for salmon, groundfish, urchin, crab, abalone and shrimp. Port officials say most resident fishermen participate in more than one fishery, and fishermen say the 80-vessel fleet includes about 30 to 40 salmon trollers, 15 to 20 multi-fishery vessels, 10 to 15 urchin dive boats and seven groundfish trawlers.

The harbor district, Dolphin Isle Marina and a cluster of about 25 businesses at or near the harbor, offer everything from fuel and ice to refrigeration, vessel repair and maintenance. Fish receiving and processing capacity includes six buyers with receiving stations at the harbor, three on-site processors and a live fish buyer.

While much of the catch is processed locally, buyers say some of it is shipped out of the area for processing and distribution. Several fishermen and local buyers sell salmon, crab, groundfish and albacore tuna either off-the-boat or through other direct sales.

Located 28 miles south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay’s Pillar Point Harbor on California’s central coast is home to most of the central coast’s commercial fishing fleet. The harbor features 369 berths, pump-out facility, ice-making facility, fuel dock and community fish buying center.

Major investments in outer and inner breakwaters by the San Mateo County Harbor District created what district officials consider “the most protected harbor of refuge” along the coast. The district has also invested in berthing and launching facilities and equipment upgrades. Pillar Point also provides a top-notch search-and-rescue service.

Commercial fisheries and working waterfronts remain essential sources of jobs and economic growth in Oregon and California ports and coastal communities. Those ports are still home to experienced multi-generational fishermen, and in some port towns, economists say commercial fisheries provide 25 percent or more of total annual earned income. The seafood industry also supports associated fish processing plants, mechanics, welders, refrigeration specialists, machine shops, marine electronics sales and service firms, professional services and marine suppliers – mostly clustered adjacent to the waterfronts.

No one knows what the future holds, but port officials in Oregon and California say they’ll be ready for whatever happens, and will do everything possible to keep commercial fishing vibrant.


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