Photo by Christy Wolyniak
Pastor Erik R. Wilson Weiberg giving a past blessing.

86th annual Blessing of the Fleet set for March 9th

The 86th annual Blessing of the Fleet will take place at Fishermen’s Memorial site at Fishermen’s Terminal March 9 at 2 p.m.

Pastor Laurie Jones of Ballard First Lutheran Church will lead the ceremony and will offer words of hope for the fishing fleet to bring a good fishing harvest, safe travels and that the fleet be good stewards of “the creation.”

“I want to focus a little on the 100 anniversary of fishermen’s Terminal and remember those who did not come back from sea and highlight the people that have been lost.

“I think I might base the homily on the memorial site and will look for the first and last names on the plates and connect them somehow and highlight how these men and women have lost their lives, but the fishing continues and it's a blessing to all of us,” said Jones.

Erik R. Wilson Weiberg also of Ballard First Lutheran, has been doing the blessing for 18 years, but he said that that now he will be switching off every year with Jones.

“In the blessing we not only ask for a good harvest, safe journey and stewardship, but also offer thanks for the fishing community and remember the risks they take and the sacrifice the families have made,” said Weiberg

Weiberg said that a popular story to tell in the blessing is the story of Christ on the Sea of Galilee where the sea was storming and he woke to calm the men and sea for safe passage.

“The image with Jesus on the boat with the fishermen lends to the saying that ‘we are all in the same boat’ and in this together as a community,” said Weiberg.

Moreover, Weiberg said that although the fishing community has changed and the
congregation is less of a ”fishing” congregation, it’s important to remember that the community was built by the maritime industry and that the blessing tradition celebrates the community heritage.

Though celebrated by many cultures, O.L. Haavik, who was from Norway, started Blessing of the Fleet in Ballard 86 years ago. Weiberg said that of course
Norwegians had the tradition there and carried it with them to Ballard.

“Its an honor. Our church used to be referred to as the fisherman’s church and that’s not as true anymore. The community has changed and fishing has changed but its still such an important part of our roots,” said Weiberg.

Every year there are city, county and state representatives that speak during the
Blessing. Past speakers have included Pastor Laurie A. Jones and
Pastor Erik R. Wilson Weiberg, Congressman Jim McDermott, Senator Jeanne
Kohl-Welles, and King County Council members, Bob Ferguson and Larry Phillips.

Long liner fishers and others are set to leave on March 8 and will be fishing for halibut, black cod and pollock.

Salmon fishing does not start until June and with last years recorded amounts things are looking good for the fleet.

According to the Alaskan Fish and Wild Game, 2013 was a record year most pink
salmon caught with 219 million pounds. The bulk equates to $691.million, which comes second to the record, which was set in 1988 with harvest value set at $724 million.

Moreover, last year’s most valuable salmon fishing area was Southeast Alaska with a valued harvest of $219 million worth of pink, chum, coho and Chinook. Usually the most fish harvested is Bristol Bay, but that fell behind Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound. Other areas that brought good harvests were Kodiak and Chignik with $60 and $23 million. Moreover, AFWG said that the Alaska Peninsula had a fair harvest for the first time in years.

Areas that lagged in harvests were the entire Arctic/Yukon/Kuskokwim region with no commercial fishing opportunities for Chinook and the Upper Cook Inlet was just over half the projected amount.

Robert D. Alverson, Manager of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association said that on the fishermen level there are two and a half billion dollars in wages being distributed and the fishing harvest brings an estimated five billion dollars to the immediate Seattle area.

The blessing is not complete without a featured boat and as of now the Fishing Vessel Owner’s Association has not revealed which boat it will be but will know by this week.

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