Community complaints grow over problematic fishing vessel in Tacoma’s Foss Waterway

October 24, 2023

TACOMA, Wash. — The Foss Waterway is a favorite location for Tacoma native Phyllis McElroy, who also works with the environmental watchdog Communities for a Healthy Bay.

“I’ve seen the Foss Waterway go from a place where barnacles did not grow on boats to this living, thriving ecosystem that we see here,” she said. “I’ve seen this area thrive over the years, and I’d like to see it continue to do so.”

But amid all that growth, she said there’s a sore spot: The Pacific Producer, a fishing vessel anchored right across from the Fish Peddler restaurant. McElroy said the fishing vessel has been problematic for some time.

“It’s quite detrimental to the ecosystem of the Foss waterway, it’s an eye sore for residents,” McElroy said. “Next week will make it an entire year, but we’ve seen problems with the Pacific Producer for the past year.”

On August 13, a new problem emerged: the Tacoma Fire Department alerted the Coast Guard that the ship was leaking ammonia into the water.

First responders, along with representatives from the Department of Ecology were sent out to investigate, but the Coast Guard said the degraded state of the ship prevented them from finding the source of the leak.

This isn’t the first time the Coast Guard has been called to deal with problems from this ship.

“There have been several incidents with the Pacific Producer,” said Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier. “It has a sort of a checkered history throughout here and Alaska, so we’re keeping an eye on it, and obviously our biggest concern is the safety threat it poses to the public.”

Strohmaier said the ship has since been sealed as authorities put together a plan to remove the ammonia and other dangerous fluids from the ship. Air monitoring devices were placed around the ship, and there’s currently no immediate threat to the public.

Strohmaier also said the Coast Guard has been in touch with the ship’s owner, but if the owner doesn’t remove the ship, the state would have to get involved, and it would not be a quick or easy process.

But McElroy said as long as the Pacific Producer is docked in the Foss Waterway, it will continue to be a problem.

“It just seems like a ticking timebomb, like we’re waiting for something else to happen instead of just removing this vessel from our waters,” she said. “It’s incredibly frustrating to see that someone can is able to just come to our waters, dock their boat, leave it, and never come back.”