Upgrades to marina area will allow for increased commercial activity.
VENTURA—Boaters along the southern edge of California’s Central Coast should be prepared to see a few major changes during the next few weeks and months, as Ventura Port District is moving forward with a multi-million dollar upgrade of the docks at Ventura Harbor Village Marina.
Port district staff announced work on the Ventura Harbor Village Marina Dock Improvement Project would begin in mid-May, allowing the harbor to expand its commercial fishing operations. The anticipated budget is $4.5 million, with upgrades being made to utilities and infrastructure of the dock systems.
Ventura Harbor also has a large recreational boating presence, meaning boaters, anglers, commercial fishermen and other watercraft users will have to work a little harder to maintain a fluid co-existence. The harbor is also one of the largest markets for California squid.
“The new dock systems will accommodate the harbor’s ever-expanding fleet of commercial vessels,” port district staff stated.
Dock Improvement Project and Fish Pier
The port district’s announcement of the dock improvement project comes on the heels of improvements made at the local Fish Pier. Ventura Port District specifically spent $500,000 on resurfacing the Fish Pier, among other improvements; the pier, according to port district staff, is an “essential offloading facility for large and small commercial fishermen.”
An estimated 27 tons of fish were offloaded at the Fish Pier in 2017, according to port district staff. The offloaded fish yielded an economic activity of $31 million, port district staff added. California market squid accounted for a majority of the fishing activity at Ventura Harbor.
“Commercial fishing is vital to the local economy. In April, the Ventura Port District invested $500,000 into the resurfacing of the Fish Pier and other improvements of the essential offloading facility for large and small commercial fishermen,” port district staff stated. “Next, an extensive Ventura Harbor Village Marina Dock Improvement Project will increase the availability of larger slips.”
Ventura Harbor Village Marina manager Dave Werneburg added the upgraded infrastructure would also support the port district’s new aquaculture endeavor, Shellfish Enterprises. The aquaculture initiative would bring offshore mussel farms to Ventura Harbor.
Port district staff anticipates completing the dock improvement project by September.
Completing upgrades of the Fish Pier and commercial docks, port district staff stated, are consistent with the agency’s goal of “positioning the harbor marina as a world-class commercial harbor.”
Other infrastructure improvements call for the replacement of “environmentally unfriendly” foam dock floats and upgrades of electric pedestals at each slip. The foam dock floats would be replaced with concrete docks.
Ventura Harbor, according to port district staff, is “one of the most active commercial fishing ports between San Pedro and Morro Bay.” The port district balances multiple interests: boaters, fishermen, residents, visitors and other watercraft users. The small-craft harbor occupies 274 acres and serves several commercial and recreational uses; it is also home to the Channel Islands National Park.
History Lesson: Commercial and Recreational Interests
Fishermen have been using the harbor regularly for nearly 50 years now, offloading a variety of species such as crab, halibut, lobster, prawn, sea bass and, of course, squid. The harbor’s marinas are also home to a large liveaboard population.
The harbor is owned and operated by Ventura Port District, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) described as “an autonomous political subdivision of the state of California.”
A 1979 NOAA study of the harbors in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties revealed Ventura Port District intended to strike a balance between commercial and recreational interests.
“Plans are being made by the Port District to assure the accommodation of both recreational and commercial fishing vessels in the future development of this harbor,” NOAA staff stated in a 1979 analysis of Ventura Harbor.
Commercial fishing activities at Ventura Harbor were relatively light in the late 1970s. Plans were in place, however, to ramp up commercial fishing activities within the port district in the early 1980s.
“Until December of 1978, commercial fishing vessels did not use Ventura Harbor except on rare occasions due to a lack of berthing and commercial facilities. The harbor manager has recently provided 20 moorings for commercial fishing vessels and has set aside an area for transient berthing,” NOAA staff stated in its 1979 analysis of Ventura Harbor. “In January 1979, nine commercial fishing boats were regularly using the transient berthing and 34 fishermen with vessels ranging from 40 to 70 feet in length had requested moorings.”
Meetings were held in 1978 to determine whether Ventura Harbor could be a destination for commercial fishing interests, and local administrators began working on a plan to give the port district the tools it needed to compete with other ports.
“Ventura Harbor has excellent potential to serve the needs of a developing commercial fishing industry. With the recent placement of new moorings for commercial fishing boats and additional space available for transient vessels, fishermen are now using the harbor and gaining experience with the entrance,” NOAA’s 1979 study of Ventura Harbor stated. “Growth of the industry in this harbor may be slow until larger ‘market fish’ buyers or processors establish operations in the Ventura area.
“With the exception of sea urchin, anchovy and squid processed in Oxnard, large amounts of fresh fish and shellfish must be shipped to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles or San Pedro for processing,” NOAA staff continued.
Ventura Harbor is not a natural port or harbor; its entrance must regularly be dredged in order to allow boats to go in and out. The harbor’s entrance experienced a major shoaling event in early 2016, severely limiting the commercial fishing fleet. Boaters were also limited, as they were not allowed to navigate in and out of the harbor.
Visit VenturaHarbor.com or updates on the Ventura Harbor Village Marina Dock Improvement Project.
Photo: Ventura Port District