National Fisherman


Hot spots

Boatbuilders in the right places are busy

By Michael Crowley

Chris Van Peer has been fielding numerous inquiries from fishermen who want a new steel boat. "Some of them," he says, "want a boat built right now."

Van Peer, who builds boats one at a time at Van Peer Boatworks in Fort Bragg, Calif., can't accommodate them.

"I can't do it right now," is his reply, because there's a troller under construction. Once the troller goes in the water, Van Peer's crew will start building a crabber.

The size of the crabber hasn't been determined, but it will probably be 58 feet. "Fifty-eight feet, that's what they want up there," Van Peer says. This particular boat is going to a Dungeness crabber who will fish in Washington, but Van Peer's referring to Alaska and its Bering Sea cod-pot fishery, which favors boats under 60 feet, as well as Alaska salmon fishermen who are looking to replace older boats.

Nearly all the way across the country in Coden, Ala., Williams Fabrication works on a couple of boats at a time. The boatyard's owner, Dale Williams, is also getting inquiries from scallopers who want to have boats built. "I've found a spot within New England and have a couple of customers that have been real good to us," he says.

A developing market for new boats might seem counterintuitive to most people, given challenges facing much of the industry. One hears about boats being sponsoned and lengthened, and some conversion work, but discussion nowadays doesn't usually revolve around new construction.

Indeed, there are market and regulatory forces that keep fishermen from building new boats. The price of boatbuilding steel has about doubled in the past 10 or 15 years. Copper, used in wiring and elsewhere, has also gone up dramatically, and the cost of new diesels is almost certain to cause sticker shock if a fisherman hasn't priced an engine in the past decade.

In addition, many boat owners may feel compelled to stick with their current vessel if it is grandfathered by existing rules in their fishery.

Inside the Industry

The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

Read more...

Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.

Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.

Read more...
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