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Modernizing The North Pacific Fishing Fleet Could Mean Jobs In Puget Sound

A North Pacific fishing boat sits at Fisherman's Terminal on Lake Union.
Simone Alicea
A North Pacific fishing boat sits at Fisherman's Terminal on Lake Union.

The fleet of boats that fish the waters off the coast of Alaska is getting old, but that could be a good thing for the economy here in Washington state, according to a new report.

Thereport was commissioned by the Port of Seattle and the Washington Maritime Federation, which represents maritime businesses around the state. Their goal was to profile the North Pacific fishing fleet and figure out how valuable it could be to modify and rebuild it.

For Washington state, it could be very valuable. The report expects $1.6 billion to go into modernization projects over the next 10 years.

And 50 percent of those projects are expected to happen in the Puget Sound, bringing with them hundreds of new jobs each year during that period.

"I'm excited by that 1.6 billion number," Washington Maritime Federation Director Mark Gleason said. "Here in the Northwest ... we've got an extraordinarily skilled workforce who knows how to build fishing vessels for service in the North Pacific."

Boats in the North Pacific fleet are already being modified individually. The Puget Sound has seen about a third of those projects, competing with places like the Gulf of Mexico.

But the region's maritime network of shipyards, labor and other fishing-oriented businesses makes the Puget Sound attractive, Gleason said.

"I'm happy to compete with the Gulf. I'm happy to compete with any part of the country for this work," he said. 

Given that the average North Pacific fishing boat is about 40 years old, the need to modernize the fleet is growing. 

Gleason said that means that network, both private companies and public agencies, need to work together to try and bring the bulk of those projects to the Puget Sound.

In a statement, Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick said, "As a business and infrastructure partner to the fishing fleet, we need to make sure we capture this opportunity for the regional economy."

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.