This was published just yesterday from KIAL News in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Once again, last minute discussions between the fishermen and crab processors have delayed the start of the season. Last year there was a four day delay, hopefully they’ll get to start soon…
The Bristol Bay red king crab season opened today, but like last year, the majority of the fleet is still tied up in Dutch Harbor, waiting for their proxies in Seattle to agree on a fair price.
“At the moment, we don’t have an offer on the table we think is acceptable,” said Greg White, a negotiator for the Inter-Cooperative Exchange, which represents about 70 percent of the Bering Sea crab fleet in negotiations with seafood companies. “That could change, and we’re working toward trying to get this resolved.”
White said none of the six major processors has made the fishermen an equitable offer yet, although that may be because buyers in Japan haven’t yet reached a wholesale price, which determines how much processors operating in Alaska can pay fishermen for the crab. Representatives from those six companies couldn’t be reached today, and typically don’t comment on price negotiations.
Last year a similar impasse kept fishermen at the docks for four days after the season opened. White wouldn’t speculate on how long it would take the co-ops and processors to reach an agreement this time around.
“Nobody’s leaving tonight–let’s put it that way,” he said. “We’ll look at it tomorrow, see if we can accept any offers, and if we come to an agreement, we’ll let the boats know.”
It’s clear that few fishermen expected things to get started on time this year. According to the state Fish & Game Department office in Unalaska, only 35 of the 86 crab boats that pre-registered this year had completed their final registration before today, a sharp drop from last year.
The harvesting co-ops are looking for an opening price of $4.35 a pound this year, up from about $3.50 at the beginning of last year’s season. Fishermen will also be harvesting more crab this year than any other year in recent memory. The red king crab fishery is capped at 20.4 million pounds, a third higher than last year’s quota and a bigger allocation than any year in the Bering Sea since 1982.