Andrew Murphy / Commentary

Dramatic cut in halibut bycatch will cost Alaskan jobs

I have been an Alaskan since 1996. I live and work in Dutch Harbor and have built a labor and equipment company providing services to the Amendment 80 vessels. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is meeting in June to decide whether to adjust the Amendment 80 fleet’s allowable halibut bycatch. The council’s decision is likely to cost Alaskan jobs. We have been providing longshore services either directly or indirectly since 1998. Our company has grown from a few hard working Alaskans to a little over 120 employees. We provide these services in Dutch Harbor and Adak. I can say without any reservation that any dramatic cut in the Amendment 80 vessels ability to deliver fish to Dutch Harbor will have a devastating impact on our labor force and their families. These employees depend on the steady work of the Amendment 80 fleet that fish year round providing steady income that helps keep the employees working, unlike many of the other fisheries that are very seasonal and as a result make it difficult to keep a year round qualified labor force. In 2014 Pacific Stevedoring received $4,414,870 in stevedore revenue from Amendment 80 vessels. Even modest cuts to this revenue will potentially cost up to a dozen jobs. But dramatic cuts could very well eliminate all the jobs. Employees cannot maintain residency and employment in Dutch Harbor if standing by for large parts of the year waiting for work. Equally important is the secondary effects on the rest of the fishing industry and community as a whole. We all watched many jobs disappear in Dutch Harbor as the rationalization of the many fisheries reduced the demand for third-party vendors. The Amendment 80 vessels support a large part of the Dutch Harbor community and reductions in their deliveries will have far reaching effects. From possible elimination of the shipping companies that support them, which will reduce fish companies options to get product out driving up the cost of shipping, to significant cuts in city tax revenue, forcing the city to raise taxes on the other sectors to make up the difference and numerous other effects in between. I can say without hesitation if the Amendment 80 vessels were to see dramatic cuts in deliveries resulting from halibut by-catch cuts, Pacific Stevedoring will have to eliminate approximately 50 good-paying jobs while the City of Unalaska will endure many other hardships as well. Andrew Murphy is CEO of Pacific Stevedoring Inc.
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