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KETCHIKAN - Tenders who worked this spring's herring fishery on Annette Island still haven't been paid because the Annette Island Packing Co. continues to grapple with financial problems.
While the company has been late with payments before, it has never been this late, said Kurtis Klose of the Haida Chief. "They owe us for tendering their gillnet roe fishery in April and they don't have any answers for us," he said. "No one will take responsibility for telling us if or when we're ever going to get paid."
Klose and Layne Crea of the Yankee Clipper estimate 11 herring tenders are owed more than $100,000. The fishery was April 5-10.
"The contract specifically states that we are to be paid within 30 days of the end of the fishery," Crea said.
The fish processing plant, which is owned by the Metlakatla Indian Community, has been dealing with a number of financial difficulties this summer. General manager Gary Cortner has said previously that the problems center on April's herring fishery when the harvest fell under quota and weather kept fishermen from the grounds.
Metlakatla has been trying to modernize Annette Island Packing, which operated a salmon cannery until a few years ago. The plant recently added a tunnel freezer, and the federal Economic Development Administration provided a $2.3 million grant in late July to Metlakatla for further upgrades. The money will be used to link fish intake stations on the dock to improved processing lines, the tunnel freezer and deep freezers, according to the grant description.
Payments to cold storage workers and fishermen were delayed earlier this summer as Metlakatla worked on financing with the Commerce Bank of Washington. The Bureau of Indian Affairs stepped in with a $2.5 million loan guarantee in late July to secure the bank financing, said Ed Gunyah, superintendent for the BIA in Metlakatla.
About 80 people work at the cold storage plant.
Lisa Terry of the tender American Patriot said communication generally has been poor.