A massive fire that began on Jan 22. at the Ilwaco Landing seafood processing facility, a hub for Dungeness crab harvests, is under investigation, meanwhile leaving Safe Coast Seafoods as the lone fish-receiving facility in Ilwaco, a small Washington town near the Oregon border.
The devastation from the fire leaves a lot on the line for the Dungeness crab fishery, which according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was worth some $64.6 million in 2022. Still, the Seattle Times reported, even as smoke rose from remnants of the fire, the community was coming together to help.
Fire officials said in a news release that due to the remote location of the fire, a limited water supply hampered effort to fight the blaze.
“The situation was further complicated by the presence of an estimated 8,500 crab pots on the dock surrounding the building,” they said.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., noted in a social media post that the waterfront is the heart of Ilwaco and its local economy.
“My prayers are with the entire community, including the cannery workers and fishing families who rely on the docks for their livelihoods” she wrote.
Many donations of money and gear have poured into Ilwaco in the days following the fire, from seafood harvesters up and down the West Coast.
In 2023, some 3.3 million pounds of Dungeness crab were processed there. Now, some of the boats that normally deliver their crab to Ilwaco will have to deliver in Astoria, Ore. or Westport, Wash., adding travel time and expense to their typical route.
Zeke Estrella of the f/v Sunset Charge was among those hit hard, losing nearly 600 pots in the blaze.
“It was odd watching everything you do go up in flames,” he told the Seattle Times.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help Dungeness crab harvesters recoup their losses with new gear. It is available at https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-fisherman-who-lost-pots-in-the-ilwaco-fire.