Two major fishing companies based in Seattle have purchased three Alaska factory trawlers and their quota share from the Fishing Company of Alaska (FCA). The sale was announced on Friday. The purchase price was not disclosed. Two Seattle based companies, O’Hara Corporation and Ocean Peace, were involved in the purchase.
A fleet of six Bering Sea fishing vessels was once owned by FCA. One of FCA’s vessels, the Alaska Ranger, sank in 2007. Five crew were tragically killed in the sinking and the remaining 42 crewmen escaped death following a miraculous rescue effort by the Coast Guard. As a result of the Alaska Ranger sinking, lawsuits were filed against FCA for the maritime wrongful deaths and personal injuries of the crew under the Jones Act. Those cases were settled out of Court. Attorney James Beard represented many of the crewmen and their families. In 2016 a second vessel owned by FCA, the Alaska Juris, sank. No deaths occurred in that sinking, but the sinking of the Alaska Juris remains under investigation by the United States Coast Guard.
O’ Hara Corporation has over a hundred year history in the commercial fishing industry. They own 12 scallop boats based in Maine. O’Hara Corporation became involved in the Alaska ground fish trawling industry in the early 1990’s. Prior to their most recent purchase from FCA, O’Hara owed three Alaska factory trawlers, The F/T Constellation, F/T Defender, and F/T Enterprise. A fourth vessel, the F/T Araho is under construction. O’Hara claims that the F/T Araho will be the most technologically advanced catcher processor in the Alaska fleet. O’ Hara has indicated they intend to continue to fish the vessel it purchased from FCA and will make modifications and repairs of the aging vessels that will bring the vessels up to date with modern fishing and safety standards.
Ocean Peace will reportedly take control of two of the FCA vessels that have been sold. The two FCA vessels will be added to Ocean Peace’s fleet of two other Alaska factory trawlers, the F/T Ocean Peace and the F/T Seafisher. Ocean Peace also owns one catcher vessel, the Green Hope. Ocean Peace indicates they will also bring the FCA vessels up to modern safety and production standards.
Ocean Peace and O’Hara’s vessels all fish for Alaska ground fish under Amendment 80. Amendment 80 limits the amount of vessels that can fish for certain species of ground fish based upon the historical fishing catches of each vessel. Each Amendment 80 vessel is assigned a quota share. The vale of the quota shares which gives the owners of the vessel the rights to participate in the fishery are highly valued. In the case of this purchase the true value of the purchase rests in the value of FCA’s vessels quota shares.
Working as a deckhand or fish processor aboard factory trawlers in Alaska remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Crewman who are injured while working aboard factory trawlers may claim rights to compensation under the Jones Act and the general maritime law.