Fishermen Finest choose to build their new 265-foot catcher processor in local American Shipyard, Dakota Creek. The 265-foot vessel carried a price tag of 75 million dollars and the vessel was the newest and largest catcher processor to be built in the United States in over 30 years. Fishermen’s Finest is a local Kirkland based company, which employs hundreds of crewmen to work on their vessels as fish processors in Alaska. The construction of the vessel meant hundreds of jobs for local shipyard workers. Building the F/V American Finest in the United States was a feel good story about supporting American shipbuilding and the American fisheries.
But there is now a 75 million dollar problem caused by Dakota Creek mistakenly using too much foreign steel in construction of the vessel. Federal Regulations for new vessels constructed to fish in United State waters only allow for 1.5 percent of the vessel’s weight to be made from foreign steel. Dakota Creek made a mistake and the 265-foot F/V America Finest contains an estimated ten percent of foreign steel most of which is from Holland. The vessel now sits unfinished and the owners are reportedly preparing to put the vessel up for sale to foreign interest that would be able to use the vessel in waters not under the jurisdiction of the United States.
Fishermen’s Finest and Dakota Creek sought a legislative fix to the problem of having too much foreign steel in the vessel. Other fishing companies opposed a waiver that would allow the vessel to fish. Washington State Senator Cantwell and Alaska State Senator Sullivan have been negotiating over the terms of a compromise to allow the vessel to enter the American fishery. A waiver to allow the American Finest to fish in United States water failed to make it into the 1.3 million dollar spending bill signed President Trump on Friday. Although there is still hope for a regulatory exemption to be passed, such a fix is becoming increasingly doubtful.
It is difficult to understand how a compromise can’t be reached which would fairly allow this state of the art American built factory trawler to fish in Alaska waters. Yes a mistake was made, but in my opinion the penalty shouldn’t be the punishment of Fisherman’s Finest and the potential financial ruin of one of our last remaining local shipyards, Dakota Creek.