‘We see this happen over and over:’ Burning of fishing boat on Commencement Bay raises concerns

October 24, 2023

TACOMA, Wash. — The burning of the Kodiak Enterprise has sparked concerns across Commencement Bay in Tacoma. The massive fishing vessel is owned by Trident Seafoods. Back in February of 2021, another Trident Seafoods-owned ship called the Aleutian Falcon caught fire while moored in the same exact location.

Executive Director of Communities for a Healthy Bay Melissa Mallot says it’s a connection that should raise eyebrows.

“Huge smoke, shelter-in-place, big air risk,” said Mallot. “It still was an environmental catastrophe, and they got fined $25,000.”

Mallot argues this fine fell short. She says Trident brings in $2.6 billion annually — therefore, a $25,000 fine means little.

“We see this happen over and over,” said Mallot. “This stuff doesn’t happen in Seattle, and it’s concerning that it keeps happening in Tacoma.”

Across the water in Foss Harbor Marina, Tarin Todd has been closely tracking the fiery crisis.

“The biggest concern is keeping it afloat,” said Todd. “As soon as it starts sinking, that’s where your big impact comes.”

Todd says the marina he oversees as manager is more like a neighborhood. An estimated 125 people live aboard vessels there.

“A major spill, a major fire like that on the Foss Waterway here, would be like a major chemical plant going up in the middle of a cul-de-sac,” said Todd.

A short boat ride from his offices is the 77-year-old fish processor, the Pacific Producer. Out of all the vessels on the Foss Waterway, the Pacific Producer makes Todd anxious.

“It’s like someone who is sick,” said Todd. “They look sick on the outside. They’re definitely sick on the inside.”

Both Mallot and Todd agree if a boat like the Pacific Producer were to sink or catch fire, the ramifications could be catastrophic.

KIRO 7 reached out to Trident Seafoods for a statement, which reads, in part:

The Kodiak Enterprise returned to Tacoma in late March after completing the fishing ‘A’ season in Alaska and was docked at the Trident facility for maintenance. We follow a rigorous maintenance schedule for all our vessels to ensure we keep our fishermen and crew safe.  Within minutes of our guard reporting smoke on the Kodiak Enterprise on April 8th, Trident activated its emergency response protocols and safely off-boarded three engineers without injury. A multi-party, multi-disciplinary response is being coordinated including Trident, Tacoma Fire Department and volunteers, U.S. Coast Guard, WA Department of Ecology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington State Maritime Cooperative, CTEH, ECM Maritime, and Resolve Marine. We don’t yet know what caused the fire and we will cooperate fully with the investigation to once again understand the issue, conduct a thorough review of all our shipyard maintenance safety protocols with internal and external experts, and improve our processes.