Fisherman's Co-Op getting much-needed upgrade - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Fisherman's Co-Op getting much-needed upgrade

by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - The Guam Fishermen's Co-Op has been a staple in the community for decades featuring some of the ocean's best. And efforts are finally moving forward to upgrade the deteriorating facility.  

Featuring some of the ocean's best including favorites like sashimi, poke and kelaguen, Fishermen's Co-Op in Hagatna continues to offer the island's fishermen a place to call home. "This facility is over 30 years old and its falling apart, its a second hand butler building," according to president Manny Duenas. He said funds have recently become available to get the ball rolling on a much needed new facility.

"According to GEDA, they actually came down and visited me and we have all the money in the account already established," he said.

In fact just today, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Fishermen's Co-Op and the Guam Economic Development Authority paving the way for the 15-year old project. Public law appropriated $2 million from the proceeds of the hotel occupancy tax bonds to the GFCA for the construction, repair and improvement of its building in Hagatna. Today GEDA confirmed that those funds were deposited into an account since mid-January.

"$2 million is not enough, its less than half of what we actually need we need $4.5 million so the Fishermen's Co-Op have to go out and solicit funding through banks and stuff," he said.

Duenas says the estimated price for the new facility will not only expand the co-op's size from 3,000 square feet to roughly 20,000 square feet but feature a snack bar and a seafood restaurant. The facility will be two stories and will address the co-op's operations and amenities at the Hagatna Marina.

Efforts to move this project forward couldn't come at a better time as not only has Duenas been doing renovations with the little funding he has but were recently dealt with another blow as the shop was burglarized earlier this week with money from his safe stolen along with the company's only vehicle.

"And the sad reality is its another set back financially for a small organization, people seem to forget we're a nonprofit organization we don't have a lot of money set aside everything we do goes back to keeping this place alive," he said.

He says a new facility won't only help him and the fishing community but a new generation he hopes will be encouraged to continue the perpetuation of this tradition on Guam.

"But the challenges are fishermen are getting old, we're recruiting young ones but the reality is we can only handle so much in this little facility sometimes we have to ask fishermen to not be members because they catch pretty good and some don't catch well and at the end of the day its a matter of processing things right and handling things right and with the new facility we can encourage the fisherman to go out," he said.

Duenas says currently, 25% of his customers are tourists and hopes a new facility will bring more tourists to Hagatna. Once the RFP is published and a contractor is selected, Duenas estimates construction to take about eight to nine months. 

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