By Margaret Bauman
Alaska Journal of Commerce
The Crewman’s Association, based in Kodiak, is asking the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to reallocate to crewmen a percentage of individual fishing quotas for crab. Shawn Dochtermann, a veteran commercial fisherman and secretary of the Crewmen’s Association, made the proposal to the council April 2, at the conclusion of the council’s April meeting. The council took no action on the proposal, but Dochtermann said he intends to pursue the matter with state and federal fisheries officials and others. Dochtermann said some 800 to 1,000 crewmen were disenfranchised as a result of privatizing the crab fisheries in Alaska under the federal crab rationalization plan. To ensure that there is a future for crewmen, plus fair earnings paid, the crewmen will depend on a co-op that will be a single shareholder of crab quotas, he told the council. Dochtermann’s proposal would re-allocate crab quotas to a crewmen’s co-op that would be held as a single individual fishing quota proportion of the total allowable catch for all crewmen who are members of the co-op and who fish in a calendar year. No actual person would ever hold IFQs, he said. The Bering Sea Crab Crewmen’s Cooperative would be formed from the total number of crew positions that are actually available in the current Bering Sea and Aleutian Island crab fishery, plus 5 or 10 percent to allow other crewmen in to take the place of those who must leave the fishery due to injury, family emergencies and other unavoidable situations.Dochtermann said the cooperative would “give haven to all Bering Sea/Aleutian Island crab crewmen from being exploited by crab and co-op owners paying low wages for some of the most dangerous work in the world.
“There should be minimum pay percentages for all crewmen, engineers and captains of the Bering Sea crab fleet, “ he said. “Once the (Bering Sea Crab Crewmen’s Cooperative) had a fair allocation, this would give the crewmen leverage for fair and equitable pay percentages.”
According to Dochtermann, the re-allocation would be formulated on the basis of past historical compensation of the crews and skippers, as an average of the years of 2002 to 2004.
Crewmen are actually small businesses that were needlessly harmed by inequitable allocation distribution under crab rationalization, he said.
Dochtermann also said that a representative of crew members needs to be included in binding arbitration when it occurs to protect the financial interests of skippers and crew members.