COVID slowed down shipyard hauls in 2020

"Wrangell has become a center for vessel repair and services with the help of local investment and community support," said the United Fishermen of Alaska's 2020 annual report "Commercial Fishing Facts."

The Wrangell boatyard is in its 15th year, and though the pandemic's economic hit to the fishing industry slowed down its business, the community facility continues to get noticed.

"We've got a really diverse bunch of skills out there," said Wrangell Harbormaster Steve Miller.

In addition to seven marine businesses that lease space at the borough-owned property, at least a couple dozen more work at the waterfront site. The lifts at the yard had been pulling as many as 400 boats a year before the pandemic put an economic strain on fishing boat owners, Miller said Jan. 15. Pull-outs dropped to 347 in 2020.

"It was all going up until COVID hit," he said. "That slowed things down a little bit."

However, that's still almost 30% better than 270 hauls in 2016, the 10th year of operations at the reclaimed site of the former downtown sawmill.

The yard added a 300-ton lift about six year ago to its 150-ton lift, expanding the market by accommodating larger boats.

The annual UFA report, released last month, said Wrangell is homeport for 228 fishing vessels, of which 212 are locally owned. The statistics in the report are from 2018. The report did not break down the size of the boats.

There were more than 210 permit holders in Wrangell in 2018, of which 148 fished that year, with an additional 205 crew licenses issued to residents, the UFA report said. Those Wrangell-based permit holders landed $12 million worth of seafood, with more than 85% of the catch offloaded in Wrangell where two processing plants in town paid out about $2 million in wages, according to Alaska Department of Labor records.

A little more than half the catch by Wrangell boats was salmon, the UFA report said.

The Wrangell Borough received $307,000 as the municipality's share of the state's raw fisheries business tax in Fiscal Year 2019, which included the summer 2018 fishing season.

Statewide, the 2018 commercial fishing industry brought in $2 billion, shared between 8,699 permit holders who fished in 2018. The state issued more than 21,300 crew member licenses. Processors paid about $450 million in wages to 27,000 workers, about 70% from out of state in the annual draw for summer jobs.


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