Cordova receives first Tanner crab delivery in 30 years

People line dock for delivery, welcoming F/V Ace

F/V Ace deckhand Robert Bernard talks with Trident Seafoods employees while putting Tanner crab into totes in Cordova, AK on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.

Deckhands Robert Bernard and Danny Delozier moved energetically around the F/V Ace as it docked at Trident Seafoods.

Delozier stood on top of 15 or so crab pots, holding on to a rope while waiting for the first bucket to drop on March 13 to fill with Tanner crabs, the first such delivery in Cordova since 1988.

Once the cloudy water drained from the fish hold, piles of bright red, orange and brown Tanner crabs emerged.

The first bucket was lowered to the vessel as Trident Operations Manager Rick Isaacson and Trident South Plant Manager Chris Golatto watched.

Trident opened its plant early this year to process Tanner crabs, a first for the facility in Cordova and Isaacson’s first time overseeing a delivery.

“I know the city of Cordova worked hard on this too and it was a nice collaboration between the city, industry and departments,” Isaacson said. “Hopefully it will develop into a long-term fishery.”

Trident employees lined the dock, waiting to fill the first tote. One leaned over the edge, snapping a cell phone photo of the boat and crabs below. His eyes were glued to the wriggling crabs below, and a smile sprawled across his face.

“They were just excited to get back to work a little earlier than they normally would,” Isaacson said of his employees. “They thought it was pretty fun seeing something live crawling down the conveyer belts.”

This scene, once common in Cordova, broke up the monotony of a cold and damp Tuesday afternoon.

Bucket after bucket, Tanner crabs were offloaded from the vessel and put into totes for processing.

“That one’s a toad!” someone exclaimed. The crew began to laugh while admiring the size of the crabs still left in the fish hold below.

Each crab must measure five inches or more across their carapace, or shell, to be legal for processing.

For many Trident employees, this was their first time being involved in a Tanner crab delivery in Cordova; a topic that engulfed conversations from those on the dock.

“We had a great crew,” said F/V Ace captain Ronald Blake, as he geared up for another trip into the Sound. “They were hootin’ and hollerin’,” he said of his crew’s response to harvesting their first good pot.

Blake and his crew varied their pot locations in the Sound.

“Once we got on ‘em, we were getting 20s and 30s and 40s.”

Blake, who has fished for Tanner crab before, said the four-day trip was “huge for the young fishermen. It gives them an opportunity to go fishing without having to spend a bunch of money on a permit.”

Delozier, one of Blake’s deckhands, is on his sixth year of fishing.

All eyes of those on the dock were watching the deck below, where he was guiding buckets of crabs up to the dock, where Bernard waited to move them into totes.

He spoke of the comradery on deck during their time in the sound, playing music and working on little sleep with the “best crew”.

“I just worked so hard for that,” Delozier said. “It was a good feeling of like, ‘yes, I’m delivering crab and I felt like it was worth it’

“ I’d definitely do it again.  That’s for sure.”

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Emily Mesner is a staff reporter and photographer for The Cordova Times. Reach her at emesner@thecordovatimes.com. Emily graduated from Central Michigan University, earning a degree in photojournalism with a cultural competency certificate. She first visited Alaska in 2016, working as a media intern for the National Park Service in Kotzebue and Denali National Park and Preserve, and has been coming back ever since. To see more photos, follow @thecordovatimes and @emilymesnerphoto on Instagram.