21st Century Viking: Why Fishermen's Terminal matters

Last Saturday morning, I was driving to work and listening to a public affairs show on KEXP. They interviewed a fisherman named Pete Knutson. He was on the program to tell listeners about an upcoming committee meeting where the Port of Seattle was going to discuss plans that he believes are part of a long-term plan to gentrify Fishermen's Terminal.

I am glad that I caught this radio show because it really made me wonder why Fishermen's Terminal is not considered as important as Pike Place Market.

The fishing boats of the North Pacific fleet that are moored at Fishermen's Terminal employ a lot of people and bring a large amount of money into the local economy. They also support many of the industrial businesses in the Ballard and Interbay area.

At the meeting Jan. 22, according to a report in a local newspaper, the Port announced it is going to levy a $25 a day fee on the boats that sell fish off their boats and move ahead with a plan to remove storage space in the net sheds, where the fishermen dry and store their nets.

Knutson believes that these actions by the Port of Seattle are part of a larger plan to kick the fishermen out of Fishermen's Terminal and eventually gentrify the area. Coming on the heels of the recent decision of the city to allow more retail development in Interbay and the removal of the Western Avenue exit from the Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel plan, it seems like there is something afoot.

If this is the case, I am amazed that there is not more of a public outcry. Fishermen's Terminal has been around since 1913 and is a place where you can, in a similar spirit to Pike Place Market, buy fish directly from the fishermen who caught it.

In addition, Fishermen's Terminal gives the fishermen an affordable and centrally located moorage space. Can you imagine the outrage if people discovered a long-term plan to get rid of the farmer's stalls at Pike Place Market? So why aren't people more interested in the battle between the Port of Seattle and the fishermen?

Despite the fact that Fishermen's Terminal has a national reputation due to its association with "The Deadliest Catch" reality TV show, it has a relatively low profile in Seattle.

Pike Place Market is centrally located downtown and has been showered with praise and now our tax dollars in order to keep it in good working condition. The "Public Market Center" sign is second only to the Space Needle as an international symbol of Seattle. The Fishermen Terminal sign is not nearly as snazzy and cannot be seen at night from the Ballard Bridge.

Fishermen's Terminal does not draw nearly as many tourists as Pike Place Market. Would it help or hinder the fishermen to have a lot of tourists hanging around?

In the long run, I think it would be a help to them as the more people that come to Fishermen's Terminal, the more people will help stop any plans for future gentrification.

It's a unique Seattle institution. It provides jobs and revenue in a recession-proof industry. The people of Ballard and Seattle need to be more aware that the Port of Seattle is making it harder and harder for these fishermen.

The Port has to make money as well and make sure that safety standards are being met. At the same time we should also be vigilant and help the fishermen oppose any plans to gentrify Fishermen's Terminal. We need to care about Fishermen's Terminal as much as we care about Pike Place Market. Next time your relatives are in town, bring them there and show them around.

More importantly, go over there and buy some fish.

Questions, comments, column idea? Please contact Brian Le Blanc at brianleblanc76@yahoo.com or comment below.

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