Kelty Stands By Letter Against Fishermen's Finest, Despite Company's Pleas Before Council

Feb 27, 2018

The catcher-processor America's Finest is stranded in a Washington shipyard. Its owners have asked the Unalaska City Council to rescind a letter that they believe could harm its chances of getting in the water.
Credit Courtesy of Fishermen’s Finest

Concerned about losing fisheries revenue, Mayor Frank Kelty asked Congress last month to restrict a troubled factory trawler in Anacortes, Washington.

Despite pleas to soften his position, Kelty said he's not backing down now.

"I think you could tell by my letter that I feel strongly about this," he said. 

Sent on behalf of the Unalaska City Council, Kelty's letter called for "sideboard" constraints on America's Finest, a new catcher-processor vessel commissioned by Fishermen's Finest.

The $75 million boat is stranded in an Anacortes shipyard, thanks to a federal law that limits the amount of foreign steel allowed in the hulls of American vessels.

Fishermen's Finest has been lobbying for a Congressional waiver to get the trawler in the water, but company leaders are concerned that Unalaska's letter could jeopardize their efforts.

President Dennis Moran came to the last council meeting to plead the case for Fishermen's Finest. He said the sideboard issue has entangled the company in a costly "fish fight."

"That fish fight has spilled over and is now costing the City of Anacortes and Dakota Creek Industries tremendously," said Moran. "Dakota Creek shipyard has now laid off more than 120 people. What we're asking you for is to help the shipyard and separate this sideboards request from the waiver."

But Kelty said the council shouldn't backpedal on its demand for restrictions. He said sideboards would protect the city and local shoreside processing plants, which stand to lose revenue when Fishermen's Finest expands offshore.

"After they harvest their rationalized quota, they could sit out there and just pick off cod deliveries that traditionally come to Unalaska," said Kelty. "We don't want to restrict the historical stuff they're doing, but we just can't let it go open season and have them wipe us out."

The cod fishery is one of Unalaska's most profitable. City officials said it generated more than $1 million in taxes last year, in addition to boosting shoreside employment, fuel sales, and other businesses that support the fishing industry.

That's why Kelty said he'll stand by his position at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 27, when councilors are scheduled to discuss the issue further.

"I feel for Anacortes," he said. "But I'll tell this to the council members Tuesday night: Anacortes and the shipyard are not our constituents. You've got to do what’s best for the City of Unalaska."