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Bay Area business hauling in, washing boats for free as fishing industry struggles

Bay Area business extends helping hand as commercial fishing industry struggles
Bay Area business extends helping hand as commercial fishing industry struggles 02:35

Local fishermen are getting a helping hand as they eagerly wait for the commercial Dungeness crab season.

They didn't get to fish salmon this year, and the presence of Humpback whales is delaying the crab season, causing them financial hardship.

To help them, Paul Kaplan, for the first time since establishing Keefe Kaplan Maritime decades ago, is offering all Northern California fisherman hauling-in and power washing services free of charge.

"They're a vital part of our industry and supporting our craftsmen, and so I thought it was the right thing to do," said Kaplan.  

Kaplan turned his love of maritime into a big business, hauling in boats and servicing them for commercial fishermen and recreational maritimers. But he is seeing the number of commercial vessels significantly dwindle, year after year.

"No question. There are fewer salmon fisherman and crab fisherman. The fishing industry on the West Coast is just under duress," said Kaplan. 

Delayed starts and shortened seasons for crab fisherman have taken a toll on the livelihood of small businesses.

"It's becoming for most of us maxed credit cards and hoping that we get to go crabbing soon enough before they're due. Everybody in the fleet is hurting," said Brand Little.

Little is the owner of The Little Fishing Company and a commercial fisherman, who needed his boat to be hauled in, to make vital repairs before the crab season begins.  

"There are so many guys within the fleet that I talked to specifically with old wooden boats that need to be hauled out, and maintenance needs to happen otherwise they're going to sink. But they just do not have the money to haul the boats out," said Little. 

"At the end of the day, it was an easy decision I guess, and if we don't do everything we can to support the Commercial Fisherman we're out of business," said Kaplan. 

Little said the free services will save him about $1,000 dollars as fishermen spend tens of thousands on maintenance annually, to keep their boats afloat. 

"For them to step up and make this offer up, it just means the world to the fleet," said Little. 

"There's a process that we approach the servicing of boats that understands the symbiotic relationship that we have, and now we've got to do a lot to support their ability to continue to earn a living," said Kaplan.  

For Kaplan, it's one move to bolster a struggling industry in need of a big lift.

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