The Fisherman’s Cooperative or the Fisherman’s Co Op as it is commonly known is setting sail and charting a course for a new home. Manny Duenas president of the Fisherman’s Co Op said since 1998 the group hoped to demolish the current building and construct a new one in its place “We’ve been around for nearly 30 years at this site. The building is pretty rundown. We’ve already completed plans and architectural and engineering drawings for a new structure and we’re hoping in the near future we could get the new structure put up.”

According to Duenas the plans call for a larger retail space. “It’s about 400 square feet of store space. We’re looking at making it four times larger. We’re looking at a restaurant and other types of activities that would enhance this area … more like a Fisherman’s Wharf in other areas.” The Co Op intends to expand its surroundings. “We also want to promote the area and promote fishing activities on Guam with management in mind but of course we want to enhance our island and give to the tourists something that is ours.”

Duenas said the Co Op will offer retail space to interested entrepreneurs and businesses. “The Co Op doesn’t intend to get into business that is not related to its activity but it does want to support marine activities. We want to provide a venue for the tourists to relax and enjoy the facility.” He said the types of businesses could include “A fish and tackle shop gift shop snack bar a SCUBA company outlet and a seafood restaurant which would promote our seafood products.”

Duenas said there were reasons why the plan took eight years to move forward.

“We worked on getting grants and we finally received some assistance from the Administration for Native Americans and they helped us out with a huge grant to pay for that product.

“Now we’re working with the governor’s office and the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority and a federal Housing and Urban Development grant program to seek the funding for the building itself.”

Duenas said the plan encountered some problems. “Because we are looking for funding it was difficult because the [27th Guam] legislature placed a limitation on our lease at five years. With the new legislature we managed to amend that to 25 years.”

Despite the accommodations and competition from big commercial fishing from by other countries in the waters surrounding Guam Duenas told the Journal the Fisherman’s Co Op. sold significantly more product in 2005. “In 2005 we did $1.75 million. In 2004 we did $1.56 million. It was about a 10% to 15% increase.”

The increase had been steady he said. “We’ve been consistent over the last 10 years. Given the downsizing in the economy and all the problems we’ve encountered we think we did pretty good.”

Duenas attributed the increase to imparting standards for the type of fish the Co Op will accept. “The quality of the product. We’ve been working on our education campaign with our fishermen and also the general public on the type of quality of fish people should be looking for and the type of fish they should be turning in.” MBJ