Anacortes delegation travels to Unalaska

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Dakota Creek President Dick Nelson, part of a delegation from Anacortes including Mayor Gere, urges the Unalaska City Council to stop asking the U.S. Congress to restrict a stranded factory trawler built in Anacortes from buying cod at sea.

The delegation flew to Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands last week in an effort to break a congressional logjam which has blocked approval of a Jones Act waiver for a new $74 million factory trawler America's Finest, to fish in U.S. waters.

Anacortes Mayor Laurie Gere and Dennis Moran, president of Fisherman's Finest, which ordered the ship from Dakota Creek, met with Unalaska Mayor Frank Kelty and the Unalaska City Council. Kelty had sent that state's congressional delegation a letter urging certain restrictions should Congress grant a waiver.

Dakota Creek discovered, too late, that it had mistakenly allowed too much foreign steel in the ship's hull, which would prevent the ship from operating in U.S. waters. Without a waiver, the shipbuilder faces serious ramifications, including the future of Dakota Creek and some 375 jobs in Anacortes.

Nelson said the error occurred after shipyard officials overlooked "fine print" in federal rules that he said were "almost impossible to find," according to a report on The Bristol Times Website.

Mayor Gere said Unalaska and Anacortes share a common bond in the boat business, citing the various vessels that work in the Bering Sea which were built in Anacortes, including the Aurora, Auriga, Nordic Viking, and Starbound. "We truly are connected," she said.

Moran said that Unalaska's request for cod restrictions could block the Congressional waiver. He asked the city to reconsider, and allow the issue to be worked out at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The floor of the U.S. Senate, he said, is a bad place to solve fisheries problems.

Reporter Jim Paulin pointed out that the ship's problems are part of a bigger "food fight," because communities like Unalaska hire shoreside workers that do what factory motherships do in buying and processing fish.

Paulin said the meeting included representatives from companies Unisea, Westward, Alyeska and Trident.

Don Goodfellow of Alyeska Seafoods in Unalaska said that he was sympathetic to Anacortes, but wanted to close a "loop hole" in the American Fisheries Act to stop factory trawlers from mother-shipping cod, according to The Bristol News.

This wouldn't be the first Jones Act waiver. Apparently Trident Seafood's Norwegian-built 76-foot yacht Annandale has also won a waiver.

Photo courtesy Jim Paulin.