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Crew Abandons F/V Akutan In Captains Bay

Berett Wilber/KUCB


Updated post: 9/14 at 2:45 p.m.

The F/V Akutan no longer has a crew and the ship's 130,000 pounds of salmon has been offloaded.

The processor has been anchored in Unalaska’s Captains Bay since late August and there’s no indication the boat will be leaving soon.


“The reality of it is, there's just a huge legal ball that needs to be worked through before any real decision can be made,” said Unalaska Ports Director Peggy McLaughlin.




After a disastrous fishing season as a processor in Bristol Bay, the vessel’s owner went broke, the crew went unpaid. and now the ship is disabled and unable to move.


McLaughlin says the interagency task force that united to prevent the boat from spilling fuel, oil and other chemicals into the bay are in limbo unless the situation turns dire.


“Right now -- with the exception of the possibility that the responsible party is willing to step up -- there's kind of this big gaping hole of no jurisdiction until something more dramatic happens with the vessel,” she said.


McLaughlin thinks the boat is stable for now and not in danger of sinking. That said, there is still fuel on board and the ship is in a precarious location for the environment.


“It's in front of salmon streams, it's in front of native allotment land," McLaughlin said. "It's also in close proximity to Westward Seafoods's intake. It’s not in a good place to have a problem.”


In late August, responders removed almost 16,000 gallons of oil and sludge from the Akutan. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation estimates 20,000 to 23,000 gallons of marine diesel and other chemicals remain on board.


McLaughlin says the city’s ultimate goal is to keep the vessel intact and get it out of Unalaska waters. A team of responders is monitoring the vessel.


Zoë Sobel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2019. She returned to KUCB after a year living in Nepal and Malaysia as a Luce Scholar. She then returned to KUCB as a ProPublica reporter August of 2020 through August of 2021.
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