Chamber Board Votes Unanimously to
Support Member Fisherman’s Finest
Fisherman’s Finest, for many years a Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce member, contacted the Chamber in 2017. Fisherman’s Finest, whose HQ is situated on Kirkland Way, two blocks from the Chamber office, is the fourth largest woman-owned business in the Pacific Northwest, employing more than 230 individuals.
Dakota Creek Shipyard, a family owned business based in Anacortes, Washington State, was commissioned to build a $75M next generation fishing vessel. The ship was completed; built with 5.3 million lbs. of U.S. steel and during construction created 650,000 labor hours of highly skilled, highly paid U.S. shipyard workers and union subcontractors.
When Dakota Creek started the project, it was unaware of private rulings by the U.S. Coast Guard regulating the use of foreign steel. A small amount of standard-class, cold-formed steel was imported from Holland, not available in the United States. Dakota Creek self-reported this unintended error. At stake, Fisherman’s Finest would have no other choice but to move their business out of United States waters, causing a serious financial loss to the company, the loss of hundreds of jobs to both Fisherman’s Finest and Dakota Creek, which announced it would have to file bankruptcy and endanger its 350 family wage jobs. To save both companies would require a congressional waiver.
Executive Director, Samantha St. John, presented a request from Fisherman’s Finest, to support its coalition, “Coalition to Save Our Shipyard” and its Industry, which was approved unanimously by the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
On November 7, 2017, St. John sent a letter to State Senator Joan McBride, urging her to support the passage of a congressional exemption to keep America’s Finest fishing in American waters. A follow up phone conversation by both St. John and board member Scott Becker, revealed that Senator McBride was prepared to take Fisherman’s Finest plight to both the Washington State Governor and to the state Senators.
On November 14, 2018, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that included language giving Fisherman’s Finest a waiver it needed to use its USD 75 million fishing vessel in American waters.
On December 6, President Trump signed the Coast Guard bill into law, including the Jones Act waiver for America’s Finest.