Senate passes bill with Jones Act waiver for Fishermen's Finest vessel

Published on
November 15, 2018

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday, 14 November, overwhelmingly passed a bill that included language giving Fishermen’s Finest a waiver it needs to use its USD 75 million (EUR 66.4 million) fishing vessel in American waters.

Senate leaders added the Jones Act waiver for America’s Finest, a 264-foot catcher-processor trawler, in its Coast Guard reauthorization bill. That bill, approved by a 94-6 margin, now goes back to the House of Representatives for its approval of the Senate’s changes. That is expected to happen after the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

Fishermen’s Finest needs the waiver because the ship, built by Dakota Creek Industries, contained too much foreign steel in order for it to be allowed to deliver goods between U.S. ports. Dakota Creek initially sought a waiver last year from the Coast Guard, but was turned down.

That’s when efforts turned to getting Congressional approval. A group, called Save Our Ship Coalition, was formed to help lobby support for the waiver, and more than 160 businesses and organizations offered their support.

The House has already passed two bills out of its chamber with the Jones Act waiver language in it. In at least one of the previous bills, the waiver was struck down in the Senate. Earlier this year, Fishermen’s Finest officials admitted they would consider selling the boat at a loss in an attempt to recoup some of their investment.

However, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) finally was able to get the waiver for the companies, both of whom are headquartered in Washington state.

 “We were able to work on a solution to save good family-wage jobs at the Dakota Creek Shipyard,” Cantwell said in a statement.

Officials from both Fishermen’s Finest and Dakota Creek did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The bill also included another measure pertinent to the commercial fishing industry. The bill would make permanent a moratorium on incidental discharge permitting requirements for fishing vessels. Leah Habegger, executive director for the Seafood Harvesters of America, told SeafoodSource her group has been battling for a permanent exemption to the Environmental Protection Agency regulation since its formation five years ago.

Without the exemption, fishing vessel crews would have to record any water running off their decks. That would include monitoring ocean water they pumped into the ship to clean decks after hauling in their harvests.

“It’s really a huge win for the commercial fishing industry,” she said.

Image courtesy of Dakota Creek Industries, Inc.

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