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Alaska Airlines bids for Adak federal air service contract

Jim PaulinDutch Harbor Fisherman

Alaska Airlines wants to keep flying to Adak. The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a request for a proposal for Essential Air Service funding, and the airline has made an offer.

Now, it's just a matter of waiting for a response from the federal agency, Alaska spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said Monday from Seattle.

Alaska Airlines, the current EAS provider, is under contract to provide service until Sept. 30 at the former Adak Naval Air Station where the regional Native corporation, The Aleut Corp., hopes to develop a major private sector economy.

Similar to past requests for proposals, USDOT is requesting proposals for 1-2 flights per week with 60 seats or larger aircraft. Though service is currently provided as non-stop, carriers can include various options, including multiple flights or multiple stops. The proposals were to be summarized and presented to city leaders for community comments.

Adak was hard-hit by the recent shutdown of Icicle Seafood's cod plant. But the fishing industry hasn't gone away altogether, according to the May issue of the city of Adak's newsletter, The Eagles Call.

Pete Hartman became interested in Adak after meeting local fisherman Mike Sharrah at the International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting in Canada earlier this year. Sharrah and Hartman started talking about buying fish from the F/V Selah; a deal was struck and Hartman now has a presence in Adak. Hart Sales Inc., based in Victoria, British Columbia, has operations in Norway, Chile, Canada and other parts of Alaska. The U.S. Hart Sales operations in Adak consists of buying fish directly from vessel owners, then distributing the seafood with the boat's name on each box.

Hartman has sent certified scales, fiber board packing material, stickers, marketing supplies, and other items to make the operation work. He hopes to eventually hire a local beach crew, to work with local clerical support and shipment handling, so the vessel owner and crew will spend more time fishing rather than worrying about getting their product to market, according to the newsletter.

Hartman's operations in B.C. include an office staff of twelve, four of whom are working on Adak logistical and compliance issues. Hartman initially hoped to ship at least 150,000 pounds of local halibut. After hearing about Icicle's departure he decided to try and double his shipments out of Adak. Hartman has successfully negotiated with the Aleut Corporation for space, the online newsletter stated on the city's Facebook page.

In another promising fisheries development reported in The Eagles Call, Jun Lee and Walter Simpson visited Adak from Gold River Seafood British Columbia, Canada in hopes of expanding the market for Adak fish. Along with the normal fish caught in the Aleutian waters, they are also prospecting for other ocean products including shellfish. After talking with local fishermen and city leader, s the pair is hopeful that Adak can provide the services and infrastructure needed for their endeavor.

This article originally appeared in The Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is republished here with permission.