Unalaska gets new pollock plant
The city of Unalaska has a big new fish processor, but it's not new to Unalaska Island.
The Northern Victor, owned by Icicle Seafoods, is now inside city limits, on Ballyhoo Road, docked permanently in Dutch Harbor, the famous body of water within the municipal boundaries of Unalaska.
Until late last year, the 380-foot-long vessel was located across the mountains, in Beaver Inlet, a bay on the south side of Unalaska Island.
Unalaska Mayor Frank Kelty said it's a big boost to the local economy, bringing between 100 and 150 more workers to town, who will add to city sales taxes when they spend money in stores and restaurants. And the new location is far more consumer-friendly than remote Beaver Inlet, an undeveloped wild area with nowhere on land to spend money.
The ship is no longer a sea-going vessel, but is now a shoreplant, Kelty said. Previously, it would travel between the Aleutians and Seattle. But now it's staying in one place, under the terms of federal fisheries rules governing Bering Sea pollock, the primary product. The ship's propeller was removed as part of the transition, he said.
Additionally, the new processor will mean a big increase in fish taxes, the mayor said.
Kelty said a new dock should keep the Victor secure, though he quipped he hopes the "big kite" doesn't blow away, calling it a "heck of a wind catcher."
National Marine Fisheries Service biologist Krista Milani said a larger dock was needed, since the former one was too small for the Northern Victor, though big enough for Icicle's smaller floating crab and cod processor Gordon Jensen. The Jensen is still working locally, now anchored in a bay within Unalaska Bay, she said.
Under the American Fisheries Act, only designated vessels and plants can catch or process pollock, all with assigned percentages of quota. The Northern Victor and its catcher boats together have 10.6 percent of the inshore quota. That's a lot of groundfish in 2018 with a total quota of well over a million metric tons for all sectors. But three other plants in Unalaska have even more, Unisea with 22 percent of the pollock inshore quota, Westward Seafoods with 19 percent, and Alyeska Seafoods with 11 percent.
The Bering Sea pollock fishery for all sectors is valued at over $1 billion a year. It is divided into three sectors. Inshore is the largest, at 50 percent which includes the Northern Victor. The offshore sector is at 40 percent for factory trawlers. The mothership sector gets 10 percent, for the three floating processors that don't catch fish, but receive deliveries from a fleet of trawlers.
The Northern Victor can also process cod.
The vessel was built in 1945 as a cargo vessel to support the war effort, and later converted to an oil drill ship. In 1990, it was converted to a fish processor with accommodations for 222 crewmembers, according to Eastern Shipbuilding.
The present site is located at the beginning of the Dutch Harbor Spit, about two miles from the nearest bar and restaurant at the airport. Transportation costs may decrease if the city decides to implement a public bus system. The proposed public transit system held its second trial period in January, for one week again. City Planning Director Bil Homka said many of the riders were seafood processors who'd never seen the island beyond their work places, with no personal vehicles and unwilling to pay taxi cabs for sightseeing.
Jim Paulin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.