Preparing to take the crab to Dutch Harbor for a higher price
A fleet of nearly 170 Tanner crabbers from the Westward region is standing down and will not drop pots when the fishery opens on January 15.
That includes crabbers from Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula and Chignik who have a combined catch quota of 7.3 million pounds, the largest since 1986.
“We have solidarity among all groups,” said Kevin Abena of Kodiak, skipper of the F/V Big Blue and a spokesman for the Kodiak Crab Alliance Cooperative that represents 121 permit holders.
Kodiak’s Tanner crab harvest limit this year is 5.8 million pounds, with 1.1 million pounds for the Alaska Peninsula and 400,000 pounds at Chignik.
At issue is a price offering of just $2.50 per pound by four local processors: Trident, Alaska Pacific Seafoods, Ocean Beauty and Pacific Seafood.
The crabbers rejected that price on January 10, Abena said, calling it “unfair,” “unreasonable,” and a “slap in the face for the crab product.”
He added that “to have all four processors come back with the same price is shocking.”
Local crabbers in 2022 received a record final price of $8.50 per pound for 1.8 million pounds of Tanner crab, which weigh 2.2 pounds on average. That brought more than $15.3 million into the pockets of local fishermen.
Abena said the crabbers realize that high price is not realistic this season due to less favorable market conditions.
But they feel strongly that $2.50 is unacceptable – especially since smaller Tanner crab from the Bering Sea are fetching $3.70 per pound with a guaranteed retroactive boost after sales are made. The Bering Sea fishery has a Tanner crab catch quota of about 2 million pounds this year.
“Our Tanners are more than one inch larger than the Bering Sea crab,” Abena said, meaning they produce bigger 12-ounce leg sections on average.
Meanwhile, Abena said Unisea at Dutch Harbor will take as much crab from Kodiak and the Westward region as it can get for the same Bering Sea price.
The unfortunate thing, Abena added, is that 80-85% of the local boats are mostly seiners under 60-feet and are not able to take the crab out west. The cooperative is now lining up tenders to take the crab to Dutch.
“It’s sad for the community that this crab could be walking out of town,” Abena said. “But we are not going fishing for $2.50 a pound.”
The crabbers plan to meet again on January 14 at noon. If a price is agreed upon, the earliest they can set out their gear is January 16.