Crabbers want profit sharing added to price offers
The latest from the Kodiak Daily Mirror by Kevin Bumgarner
January 20, 2023
[LW comment: Note the dismissive statement below from PSPA’s Nicole Kimball. She omits the fact that the Alaska brand is widely preferred by consumers, according to years of tracking by the AK Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI). It’s #1 on US menus.]
Local crabbers will continue to keep their boats moored in Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula and Chignik, saying they will not fish for the current offering price of $3.25 a pound being made by Kodiak processors.
That is the latest word from Kevin Abena, skipper of the F/V Big Blue and secretary/treasurer for the Kodiak Crab Alliance Cooperative, which represents about 120 permit holders.
Abena made the statement exclusively to the Kodiak Daily Mirror after the group met Friday evening. He said about 75% of the 102 members voting on Friday were in favor of continuing to stand down.
The group will meet again Sunday evening, and will not be fishing before noon Tuesday, Abena said.
As negotiations continue — not only in Kodiak but with Bering Sea processors — the dynamics continue to shift.
Kodiak processors, for instance, started by offering $2.50 a pound. UniSea in Dutch Harbor, by comparison, was originally willing to pay $3.70 a pound, but now its base price is $3.20. Unlike Kodiak processors, however, UniSea has agreed to pay fisherman a set wholesale price based on what the final prices are, so fishermen could get a bump beyond the base price.
Members of the Kodiak Crab Alliance Cooperative are also talking to Peter Pan Seafoods in King Cove and, Abena said Friday night, Westward Seafoods in Dutch Harbor.
Peter Pan is offering $3.25 a pound plus profit sharing, Abena said, and Westward Seafoods is offering $3.50 a pound.
The problem with Bering Sea processors is the cost of and ability for some Kodiak boats to get the crab there, Abena said, adding: “We could do it on tenders, but that would cost 25 to 50 cents per pound.”
The way to keep the crab in Kodiak, Abena said, is for local processors to add profit sharing to their offer.
“If they sell the crab for more we get some of that,” Abena said. “We take some of the risk. Just like the Bering Sea [fishermen].”
Even if Kodiak crabbers end up selling to processors in the Bering Sea, Abena said the majority of the money local fishermen earn still would be spent in Kodiak.
Kodiak processors could not be reached for comment on Friday, but earlier in the week the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, which is not involved in negotiating or setting prices, made this statement on behalf of the industry.
“It’s been reported for a while that there is a large carryover inventory from last year, and there is more crab coming into the market shortly from other countries like Russia and Canada, that compete with Alaska crab, which slows demand. Alaska seafood processors are dependent on harvesters and the economic uncertainty affects all of us,” Kimball stated.
Between now and Sunday evening, Abena said he’ll be waiting to hear if Kodiak processors are willing to make a better offer.
“We’re resolute,” Abena said of local crabbers. “This isn’t a price we’re going to consider. I don’t think people are worrying about it. Because at $3.25 there’s not a lot of money to be made there.”
The 170 crabbers in Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula and Chignik have an anticipated harvest of 7.3 million pounds of big bairdi Tanners this year, compared to just 1.8 million pounds last year, when the price soared to $8.50 a pound.
The Westward region’s combined Tanner crab catch this season is expected to be the largest since 1986. It also is now the largest crab fishery in Alaska due to the closures of the Bering Sea red king crab and snow crab fisheries.
“I’m excited to see our group staying together,” said Abena, who has not seen a stand down like this in his 12 years as a boat captain.