The battle for Oceanside Harbor’s sportfishing landing is over.
After an open bid process concluded in 2016, it’s been over a year since the new Oceanside Sea Center was granted the right to negotiate the lease for operation of the sportfishing landing.
The Oceanside City Council unanimously approved a lease for the Sea Center partners at its November 15 meeting. After 38 years, Helgren’s must vacate the docks and sportfishing landing building at 315 Harbor Drive, by November 30.
The council’s action resolves years of dispute between Helgren’s and Joe Cacciola, captain of the Sea Star, who subleased a dock for decades from Helgren’s until being evicted on December 31, 2016.
Helgren’s will move its operation across the harbor to the Dolphin Dock, a smaller facility that was the former Coast Guard station.
The new Sea Center partners include Cacciola, Ernie Prieto and his two boats currently operating out of Mission Bay, and Dr. Chugey Sepulveda and his scientist team from the Pfleger Institute for Environmental Research (PIER) — a nonprofit fish-resource-data-gathering organization.
“We’re doing something different,” said Cacciola after the council meeting, alluding to criticism that Helgren’s has been doing the same thing for 38 years. “We’re building a destination business serving sportfishing, tourism, ecology, science, ocean education, and public art.”
In the lease agreement, the Sea Center was granted use of five of the six docks.
“We gave up one dock to Helgren’s [the 117´ v-dock, the longest dock in the harbor],” said Cacciola.
“It was the largest potential profit dock in the harbor,” added Prieto.
Amber Duff, manager at Helgren’s said, “We’re glad to be able to continue to serving the community like we have for the last 40 years. We have plans to increase our fleet now that we have a lease and we’re excited to move forward.”
At the city’s expense, the council also approved building two small sales kiosks for Helgren’s: one at the Lighthouse shops, the other north of Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant.
The Sea Center plans a $65,000 renovation on the building, including the currently unused upper floor that will house research scientists, adding a tackle shop, and an aquarium that can be viewed from outside the building.
Cacciola says he’s not concerned about the potential competition from a different Helgren’s location. “We look forward to the future, and we’re not dwelling on the past,” said Cacciola. “Visitors expect more. We’re going to give it to them.”