KENAI — A report from the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District shows that the maritime industry is the peninsula’s largest employer with about 3,400 residents working in a profession related to the sea.
The 2016 Situations and Prospects report says the peninsula’s maritime sector paid roughly $177 million in wages in 2014, the most of any industry in the region. Commercial fishing accounted for most of the earnings, The Peninsula Clarion reported.
The three ports in Homer, Kenai and Seward landed 85.2 million pounds of commercial fish in 2014. Homer’s fishermen landed nearly three-fourths of the fish that Kenai Peninsula residents harvested that year, and the city earned a majority of the gross earnings, according to the report.
The report also showed that most of the industries that saw significant growth in 2015 were related to tourism.
More cruise ships have been coming into Seward and Homer each year, raising tourism revenue and funds from the state’s commercial passenger vessel excise tax. City administrations in the two cities are in the process of improving their ports.
Homer recently completed a paving project to provide access to its deep water dock and is in the process of conducting a feasibility study to expand the dock, said Bryan Hawkins, the harbormaster.
“There was a lot of survey and interviews with the customer base that use the dock now and expanding that out to other possible customers, to talk about Homer as a hub and connection point,” Hawkins said.
Seward’s work on its harbor has included replacing floats and installing lighting, said Matt Chase, the deputy harbormaster for the city. Seward is also working to create more harbor space for larger vessels by building a breakwater near the Seward Marine Industrial Center.
Rick Roeske, the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, said the group is looking to provide information and collaborate with various governments and organizations around the peninsula to work toward the region’s economic goals.
“Although we’re connected by the road and the internet, we’re all pretty focused on our own little areas,” Roeske said. “We’re going to try to get these silo groups to become more cluster groups.”