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Washington still hooked on fishing

A new report finds the sprawling, 150-year-old maritime industry continues to be a major mainstay of the state's economy.
Seattle deck hand.

Seattle deck hand. Credit: Sarah Radmer

Water, water everywhere and lots of jobs to boot.

That’s the gist of a new report on the economic impact of the maritime industry in Washington State. The report spotlights the important role the maritime industry plays in the state’s economy, estimating that the sector generates $30 billion in total revenues and about 148,000 jobs.

Those numbers make maritime bigger than Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon or other large employers in the region. Not bad for an industry that traces its roots back more than 150 years to the earliest days of the state.

Earlier this year, Crosscut’s series on the commercial fishing industry stressed its importance to the regional economy. The new report was commissioned by the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County and the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County with support from the Puget Sound Regional Council. It estimates that fishing and seafood processing account for nearly 60 percent of the maritime industry’s revenues. Logistics and shipping was the second major maritime sector, accounting for another 25 percent of total revenues.

One of the report’s surprising revelations is the sheer breadth of the state’s maritime industry, which encompasses:

  • Ship building, maintenance and repair — The construction, maintenance and repair of commercial and recreational vessels. (Commercial ships include fishing and transport boats, tugs and barges. Recreational vessels include yachts and sailboats.) Maintenance and repair can involve work on vessel interiors and exteriors, as well as on their mechanical and electrical systems.
  • Maritime logistics and shipping — The transport of goods by water, including container and bulk shipping, trans-ocean, shoreline and river freighting, and “break bulk” shipping of non-containerized goods. Tug and barge services, storage and warehousingand port management also fall into this subsector.
  • Passenger water transport — The movement of people over water for business or recreation. The Washington State Ferry system is a big actor in this category, as are cruise ships and tour boats and other charter activity.
  • Fishing and seafood processing — Anything having to do with catching and processing fish (either finfish or shellfish), for fun (recreational) or profit (commercial). Aquaculture falls into this category too, and so does any fishing and seafood processing activity that happens in Alaska on Washington State-registered vessels.
  • Maritime support services — This includes a wide array of technical and professional services, from civil engineering firms that provide marine terminal and port design and construction to naval architecture, financial and legal services, and federally-funded maritime support activities involving NOAA and the Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, there are supply and wholesaling (in propulsion, electrical, hydraulic and safety systems), boat dealers, marinas, builders of vessel interiors and suppliers of parts and fuel.
  • Military Operations — This category includes water-related military operations such as the U.S. Coast Guard and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, which is the largest federal employer in the state.

The new report also shows that the maritime industry’s reach extends well beyond coastal Western Washington, claiming 139 establishments and 2,200 workers in 18 Eastern Washington counties.

The “multiplier” for the industry — the number of non-industry jobs created for every industry job — is relatively low at 1.6. A 2010 study of Microsoft’s economic impact, for example, found a multiplier of 5.61 jobs for each Microsoft job. But the maritime industry is growing. Revenues are up 6.4 percent per year on average, with the largest growth rate — a robust 10.2 percent — occuring in the maritime logistics and shipping subsector.

Good jobs are a key part of the maritime industry story. According to the report, maritime jobs are generally middle-class jobs, no college degree required and a median income of about $71,000. The industry, as a whole, paid nearly $4 billion in wages in 2012. Workers most in demand during the next eight years are expected to be meat and fish cutters and trimmers; sailors and marine oilers; fishers and related fishing workers; laborers and freight, stock and material movers; captains, mates and pilots, and civil engineers.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Nov 26, 1:26 p.m. Inappropriate

This isn't breaking news, some have been vocal about this very report before it was a report, that's why stopping stormwater pollution is so important.

If we were proactive in protecting our marine environment like we claim to be we would have tons of tourists flocking here to catch a salmon or to dig clams. But even the locals have a hard time catching a salmon.

salmonjim

Posted Tue, Nov 26, 11:20 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for this series Crosscut. This is an industry which has long been ignored as a supposedly dying remnant of the old smokestack and tavern economy. Take a look at Mohai: there's hardly a mention of Seattle's maritime heritage.

In the early 2000's when the fishing industry was on its heels and Seattle rapidly gentrifying, the Port of Seattle issued a 50,000 dollar consultant contract (Heartland Corporation) to prepare Fishermen's Terminal for sale to a private buyer. That would've driven the employment equivalent of a Boeing plant out of Seattle. It's finally good to see the Port not largely focused on harvesting real estate value from its public assets. The long overdue renovation of Fishermen's Terminal will secure billions in economic benefits over the next few decades.

Another interesting aspect of this study is how it destroys the Fish and Wildlife Commission's web-published economic study which radically lowballs (by a factor of 25) the contribution of commercial fishing to the state while inflating the value of the sport fishery. This "study" is the ground for their biased justification to continually transferring resource from the food harvesting sector to the recreational interests. Witness their recent actions regarding Puget Sound crab and prawns, and Columbia River Chinook salmon.

There's a big difference in economic community benefit between a manufacturing sector which puts new wealth in the economy (and food) and a gentrified service sector like sport fishing which simply captures discretionary income already generated at a job.

pknuts

Posted Thu, Nov 28, 2:02 p.m. Inappropriate

pknuts: Thanks for an insightful comment.

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