Hello, my name is Mia Anderson. I am a high school junior at Mt. Edgecumbe High School and I am also a fisherwoman.
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For the past few years, I have spent my summers working on a commercial fishing boat. During my first summer, I traveled to Wrangell, Alaska, to help out with maintenance work that needed to be done on the boat. I helped with work such as painting and fiberglassing, while the captain did much of the electrical and mechanical work. However, despite the amount of work we did on our own, there was still a lot that required the help and work of people with more expertise. As a city-run operation, the Wrangell haulout provides over 100 local tradesmen with a clientele base to support their income, and that, plus the general operation, amounts to a majority of Wrangell’s economy. Wrangell’s haulout exemplifies the opportunities that a new marine haulout could provide for Sitka, economically and community-wise. According to SEDA, Sitka is home to “the largest commercial fishing fleet in Southeast Alaska.” We have a total of five harbors, amounting to 1,272 stalls and over one mile of transient docks. In 2020 alone, 600 vessels have docked in the Sitka Harbor system. In prior years, with no global pandemic, Sitka typically had 1,200 transient vessel visits. Taking these numbers, consider the wide range of opportunities and benefits that a city-run marine haulout could create for Sitka.
A Sitka-based haulout would be a great convenience and service not only to local fishermen and families but also to commercial fishermen who fish Southeast. It would be more cost-effective for fishermen to have their boats hauled out here than to travel to other areas such as Wrangell, Hoonah, and Bellingham. This would save local fishermen time and money, allow them to spend more time with their families, and keep money in the local economy as they purchase materials and supplies from local vendors and engage the services of local tradesmen. In addition, as people utilize the haulout, this will encourage other highly skilled workers to move to Sitka as they recognize the potential to earn a living. This would help build the population of our community, which has been decreasing in recent years due to high costs of living. Because Sitka is larger, it has more services available (like 24-hour grocery stores, multiple restaurants, two laundromats, two hardware stores, a fishing supply store, etc.), so it would likely be the haulout location of choice for many. All of these businesses and vendors profiting from the haulout would be paying sales tax, which would go back to the city as a profit. Profits could then be used for other public services like schools and libraries.
In conclusion, the marine haulout, especially a city-run one, would help to develop a stronger infrastructure for Sitka and, ultimately, a more sustainable future for the community. It would greatly support and benefit the local economy and community as a whole. At first, it may be difficult to see the profit and value of a haulout, but it will have a trickle-down effect that will ultimately profit the city, the local economy, the community, and the citizens.