Washington Ports Turn Toward Fishing
May 1, 2017
The Port of Bellingham recently completed a study underscoring the positive economic impact commercial fishing has on the regional economy. According to a Martin and Associates study, the commercial fishing industry generates 1,781 direct jobs in Whatcom County with jobholders earning $94.5 million in wages and salaries. Additionally, there is $320 million in annual revenue from purchases by the commercial fishing fleet at the Port's marinas in Bellingham and Blaine.
The Port places high value on the economic benefits generated by the commercial fishing industry and has several ongoing infrastructure improvement projects in support of the fishing industry. To help prioritize improvements, the Port works closely with the commercial fishing fleet and the Working Waterfront Coalition, which represents more than 100 maritime businesses in Whatcom County.
In Blaine Harbor, the Port is making phased improvements to the Sawtooth Dock to restore the loading capacity and usable area for the commercial fleet. The Blaine Sawtooth Dock has eight overlapping berths. The typical type boat using this pier is a 58-foot limit Seiner. "During our phase 1 repairs in 2016, we were able to restore access to six of the berths," says Andy Peterson, Harbormaster. "We have plans to accomplish additional work during Phase 2 repairs in 2017."
The Squalicum Harbor Sawtooth Dock is also getting life extension work. "It's in really good shape already, but we're gearing up to replace some fender pile and some other minor work to just make sure that pier is going to continue on into the future," says Kyle Randolph, the Harbormaster for Squalicum Harbor. This is welcome news to commercial fishing vessels that use the Sawtooth Dock an average of 1,700 boat-nights each year.
The Port is also installing a permanently mounted pumpout system on the Squalicum Harbor Sawtooth Dock, which is slated to be in operation by the end of the summer. This pumpout will be accessible to commercial fishing vessels at no charge 24 hours a day / 7 days a week, and serve vessels up to 130 feet. The pumpout facility will help commercial vessels comply with new requirements of the Puget Sound No Discharge Zone which prohibits the discharge of sewage from boats, whether treated or not.
Currently, there is a pump-out system on the slips but it's a mobile cart, so it's limited to 55 gallons. The facilities will also help transient fishing vessels because historically, they have had to tie up to the Harbor's work dock and wouldn't have access to that pump-out dock.
"I think this is going to be a big improvement," says Randolph. "The Port of Bellingham, for a long time, has prohibited discharge into the harbor itself. But now, you won't be able to discharge anywhere in Puget Sound. Our Port Commission has been great about approving projects which support the commercial fishing fleet."
A new 65-acre mixed-use development is currently under construction at the Port of Everett Marina that will have the commercial fishing industry as its central feature, according to Port spokesperson Lisa Lefeber.
Fisherman's Harbor, the first phase of the Waterfront Place Central project, will include housing, restaurants, retail space, and a hotel, along with a modernized commercial fishing dock on a new road called Seiner Drive. The Marina, which is the largest public marina on the West Coast, with 2,300 slips, currently serves approximately 38 commercial fishing vessels. "The new location for commercial fishermen at the Port of Everett is going to be very attractive for our fishing fleet and on-lookers," says Lefeber.
At the proposed Seiner's Wharf, there will be inner harbor pedestrian areas adjacent to the commercial fishing fleet. People will be able to meander around open-air fish market stalls and watch fishermen come into port to unload their hauls, giving an authentic experience of the working waterfront.
Pacific Rim Plaza will be the central gathering point for Fisherman's Harbor that will include a park and splash plaza and walking paths that allow access to restaurant patios and to the water along the Dock Walk. At Fishermen's Harbor, more than 260 apartment homes will be under construction starting later this year. Lefeber says it will be the first time in the city's history that there will be housing on the waterfront.
Construction on the project began in 2015.The horizontal infrastructure is expected to be completed in the 2018/2019 time frame, while the vertical infrastructure is slated to begin in 2017/2018. Along with creating a destination for jobs, boaters, commercial fishing and other recreational activities, Lefeber says the Port is also working on modernizing the seaport to be able to handle larger cargo vessels to support high-value oversized cargoes.
Seattle's Fishermen's Terminal, in conjunction with the Port of Seattle's Century Agenda, has undertaken a $42 million revitalization project as part of the 25-year plan for Fishermen's Terminal that began in 2013. The construction for the Phase One Gateway Project will see the demolition of a bank building and two net lockers adjacent to the bank building at the entrance to the Terminal to make way for a new 70,000 square-foot, multi-use industrial complex.
Another project also involves the construction of a light industrial/office facility on the western edge of Fishermen's Terminal. The FT Long Term Strategic Plan projects are in the permitting phase and, as Kenneth R. Lyles, Director, Fishing and Commercial Operations, Maritime Division, says, "We're looking at attracting commercial fishing industry affiliated businesses to inhabit these facilities."
Yet another project, slated most likely for 2019, will be the demolition of the old Seattle Ship Supply building. "We'll convert it to outdoor storage," says Lyles. "Outdoor storage for commercial fishers is a commodity, in that industrial lands and uses are shrinking in the Ballard Interbay corridor. So it would be assets that we provide to the industry that would be welcomed."
All this activity is a boon for the area's commercial fishing industry. In the past five years, the newbuild regulations have eased enough to allow for the building of brand new state-of-the-art commercial fishing vessels such as the 191-foot freezer longliner F/V Blue North, built for company Blue North Fisheries by Dakota Creek Shipyard, which is also constructing the 262-foot America's Finest for Fishermen's Finest. "These are on average $35 to $45 million dollar projects," says Lyles. "It was decades since these companies were allowed to reinvest in their fleets. So it's an exciting time to be a part of the industry.
Last fall, the Port of Seattle released a research study undertaken with McDowell Group, which looks at the current state of the North Pacific Fleet over 58 feet and what will be needed to modernize the fleet since the average age of vessels is 40 years old. The report reveals that since 2000, 19 North Pacific fishing vessels larger than 58 feet have been built or significantly modernized, with approximately one-third of the projects going to Washington shipyards. Improved on-board fish processing efficiencies, reducing waste and saving on fuel are among the top reasons commercial fishing vessel owners look to upgrade but there are many other factors as well. The report estimates the total replacement value of the entire North Pacific fishing fleet with vessels of more than 58 feet, including recent builds, to be $11 billion.