Though they're most abundant between Baja, California and the Monterey Bay, the Crescent City Harbor District is preparing for the possibility that fishermen may bring market squid to its docks.

Commissioners on Thursday voted 4-0-1 in favor of adding a quarter-cent poundage fee for squid to its fee schedule. Commissioner Carol White was absent. According to Crescent City Harbormaster Charlie Helms and Commissioner Rick Shepherd, a quarter-cent poundage fee is the going rate at other ports that see market squid come across their docks.

The decision to establish a poundage fee for squid comes after Seattle-based Silver Bay Seafoods gave a presentation last month about the possibility of offloading the eight-armed, two-tentacled cephalopod in Crescent City. Fishermen taking part in California's market squid fishery are already assessed a $0.0023 poundage fee through the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

According to Helms, Crescent City Harbor's proposed poundage fee for squid would be assessed in addition to the state fee and used to maintain Citizens Dock and the port's other facilities.

"Silver Bay Seafoods came by at the end of March and said 'we're trying to set up some spots to offload

(squid),'" Helms said Thursday. "They have a tractor-trailer and a portable pump and they can go wherever the squid happen to be. They wanted to get an agreement so they can park right by the hoist, bring in one of their boats and just pump off the squid. They pump it off the boat into a tractor-trailer and then haul it away."

Helms told commissioners harbor staff is in the process of negotiating a contract with Silver Bay Seafoods that would ensure the port receives 2 cents per pound for squid brought into Crescent City using its hoist.

If Silver Bay Seafoods uses a dock leased by Albers Seafoods or other fish buyers at the Crescent City Harbor, the quarter-cent poundage fee ensures that the port receives some form of revenue, Shepherd said.

"That boat right there is looking for squid and he's going to unload them at Alber's and we won't get anything for those squid that are coming off their boat because they lease that dock from us," he said. "They're going to pay whatever dock they're hoisting at the 2 cents."

If the Crescent City Harbor doesn't add a poundage fee for squid to its fee schedule, the harbor would get nothing if squid fishermen brought their catch to one of the fish buyers leasing facilities at the port, Shepherd said.

During the discussion, Commissioner Brian Stone suggested increasing the poundage fee to 0.0030. He encouraged his colleagues to consider fishermen's costs in fuel, labor and other expenses if they brought their catch to Brookings or Eureka rather than Crescent City.

Stone asked if the harbor would drive those going after market squid away by raising the poundage fee a bit. He also noted the representative from Silver Bay Seafoods said the company would be willing to pay the harbor 2 cents to land its catch at the port's facilities. Stone asked how many people actually fish for squid on the coast.

Most squid boats fish south of Monterey, Shepherd said. He estimated there will be 20-40 squid boats in Northern California looking to potentially start a fishery.

Shepherd also pointed out that Stone was assuming that fishermen would catch squid near Crescent City. But they'll probably find them closer to Eureka and closer to Brookings, Shepherd said.

"This is probably a moot point because they probably won't unload here anyways," Shepherd said of the proposed poundage fee. "They're going to go to the nearest place to unload and, of course, if there's more money assessed to them, they probably will even go a little bit further to do that. They're just trying to set up points along the coast to be able to unload squid if they show up and if they come into this area."

Though Shepherd had offered a motion to approve the proposed poundage fee for the harbor at 0.0025 for market squid, Stone proposed amending the motion and increasing it to 0.0030.

Board President Jim Ramsey refused Stone's proposed amendment.

"I understand the fact that we are supposed to be trying to make money and more money and everything else, but you know, the going rate is the going rate and why should we go higher at this particular point?" Ramsey asked. "It's just to get us on the start right now. I mean, we haven't even got anything. If you don't want to pass this, let's don't take anything for squid."

Shepherd said he didn't know how many pounds of squid could potentially show up in Crescent City. He noted the fishery measures their catch in metric tons and said only 135 metric tons were brought into West Coast ports this year, mostly in Ventura.

Shepherd said fishermen have been finding squid in different places further north, which is why Silver Bay Seafoods approached Crescent City Harbor commissioners.

According to Helms, though neither he nor Shepherd have heard of squid being brought into the Crescent City Harbor, fishermen were catching squid off the coast of Eureka about three years ago.

"There were so many being caught that the ice plant up here, Pacific Seafoods’ ice plant, had to ship truckloads of ice down to Eureka," Helms said. "They were working 24 hours a day unloading squid boats. The boats follow the squid runs."

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com .

23030820