St. Paul Fishing Company (SPFC) is a 100% wholly-owned subsidiary of CBSFA and was established in 2004. SPFC’s purpose is to manage fishing assets belonging to CBSFA including vessels, gear, equipment, limited license permits (LLP), and certain crab, pollock, cod and sablefish allocations.
2015 was a solid year for SPFC and its subsidiary companies. With ownership interest in seven vessels, SPFC relies on most major fisheries in the Bering Sea to generate revenue and ultimately provide annual dividends to CBSFA to help fund its programs and projects. In February of 2016, the Board of Directors of SPFC approved the largest dividend since inception of the Company in 2003, paying out $2 million to CBSFA.
The vessels that SPFC/CBSFA have interest in catch pollock, Pacific cod, opilio, bairdi, Bristol Bay red king crab, Aleutian Islands golden king crab and halibut. Pollock and Pacific cod – two of the most important groundfish species – have allocations in the upper range of what has been realized during the past decade. Opilio took a huge hit in 2015 with a 40% reduction in Total Allowable Catch (TAC). Conversely, Eastern and Western bairdi realized increases of 670% and 410% respectively, between 2013 and 2015. Bairdi allocations are at the highest levels in more than a decade, but the 2016 surveys for Eastern bairdi are poor and a fishery closure is possible moving forward. Bristol Bay red king crab has been slightly increasing or stable since 2011 but significantly lower than levels seen in the previous five years. The Aleutian Islands golden king crab TAC ‘s are stable and have increased slightly during the last decade. Halibut quotas have stabilized at very low levels. Bering Sea groundfish, crab and halibut drive SPFC’s businesses and provide opportunity for continued growth and profitability – adding to CBSFA’s ability to accomplish its mission.
2015 was SPFC’s first full year at the helm of the Adventure - a 100’ x 36’ crab fishing and salmon tendering vessel. The Adventure harvests a majority of the IFQ crab CBSFA/57 Degrees North purchased from Icicle. It is the smallest crab vessel in CBSFA’s fleet, but a sound and capable platform. The Adventure also tenders salmon in the summer months in Bristol Bay and Southeast Alaska. The Adventure was sent to the Pacific Fishermen Shipyard in Seattle in 2015 where it was painted, the engines rebuilt, hydraulics repaired and replaced, and a new tendering crane was installed. SPFC continues to refine the fish plan and operations of the Adventure, looking for ways to best utilize and integrate it into its fleet.
After much due diligence, SPFC entered into a new partnership with Unisea Seafoods and Rick and Mary Mezich, purchasing a Pacific Cod, catcher/processor endorsed Limited License Permit (LLP). The LLP will allow the partnership to harvest Pacific cod with pots on a vessel up to 137’ in length. Purchasing or building a vessel is in the longer-term plans but gaining access to the fishing rights was the first step. All seven of CBSFA’s vessels deliver their fish products to shore side plants in St. Paul, Akutan and Dutch Harbor. However, the recent investment in the LLP adds to CBSFA’s diversity and opportunities in the Bering Sea and will allow for value-added processing at sea. The ownership interests in the new partnership named Frozen At Sea, LLC are: SPFC 50%, Unisea 25% and Mezich 25%. We are excited about the opportunity to expand our relationship and business dealings with Unisea and Rick and Mary Mezich.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) conducted an expanded setline survey of the Eastern Bering Sea (EBS) flats in 2015. Through a bidding process, the Saint Peter was awarded two contracts and spent the summer with staff from the IPHC studying halibut populations. Although the EBS is surveyed annually by trawl vessels for all Bering Sea species including halibut, this particular IPHC setline survey had only been conducted once before, in 2006. The research conducted on the Saint Peter was critically important to the IPHC to support previous survey results as well as calibrations with the NMFS trawl survey. In 2016, the Saint Peter was again awarded two expanded survey contracts and spent the summer on the continental shelf in the central and northern Bering Sea. The vessel provided the IPHC staff with a large and stable platform to conduct studies and tagging projects. Halibut is an important resource for the St. Paul small boat fleet as well as other fleets from up and down the western coast of Alaska in other CDQ regions. SPFC is grateful for the opportunity to work with the IPHC and hope our efforts help lead to sustainability and a better understanding of halibut in the Bering Sea.
All in all, 2015 was a safe and prosperous year for SPFC and CBSFA’s vessels and crews. The staff and SPFC Board of Directors will continue to look for ways to diversify and strengthen its portfolio of investments, as well as employment opportunities for CBSFA members.