Tanner crab devoured during celebration dinner

Cordova residents, state officials thanked for help with fishery

Local fishermen, cannery employees and government officials celebrated Cordova’s first Tanner crab fishery in 30 years with plates of fresh crab, shared with friends, family and coworkers.

A celebration dinner was held for the “parties responsible for advocating for and executing the fishery” said Mayor Clay Koplin of the private event.

The warm sun, now shinning bright well past 6 p.m., filled the dining area of the Reluctant Fisherman on Saturday, March 24.

“Welcome and thank you for joining in to celebrate the first Tanner crab fishery in Prince William Sound in 30 years,” Koplin said, drawing thunderous applause, plus whistles from Rep. Louise

Stutes, R- Kodiak. “When we look at all the potential fisheries up and down the coast of Alaska, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be feeding half the country,” Koplin said.

“It was really exciting to see everyone come together and have such a positive result,” Stutes said. “I’m so delighted. Nothing excites me more than seeing a success story.”

Crab for the private party was donated by fisherman Makena O’Toole, Trident Seafoods, and Tommy Sheridan with Silver Bay Seafoodsemesner@thecordovatimes.com. The side dishes, venue and labor were donated by Greg Meyer and Lance Webb of the Reluctant Fisherman.

Trident also donated halibut.

People circled around the buffet featuring potatoes, corn, halibut, Tanner crab, and garlic bread as they filled their plates, crab legs spilling over the sides.

Stutes admired the white and orange crab meat after breaking apart the shell, making an audible “ooh” sound.

Koplin and others snapped photographs of the buffet as the weaving line moved along steadily.

“Right after I started as mayor, James (Kacsh) cornered me and said, ‘This is a big deal and it’s really important and it’s not just about the crab fishery; it’s just about fisheries in general and the relationship and ability to have opportunities.’,” said Koplin during his speech before the dinner.

Reluctant Fisherman head chef Lance Webb was busy with his team hours before the dinner, as they prepared 70 pounds of Tanner crab and other menu items.

He praised Tommy Sheridan’s involvement in the dinner, speaking of his willingness to help, organize and donate.

Sheridan, who has resided in Cordova since 2010, serves on Cordova’s Fisheries Development Committee and is the director of government ffairs for Silver Bay Seafoods.

He spoke humbly of his involvement, often giving credit to others.

“There was a lot of work that has been done over the years,” he said. “The fishing families first and foremost have been working behind the scenes to try to get a fishery back in Prince William Sound and that includes Bob Smith and Warren Chappell. They’re just long time and respected commercial fisherman in PWS.”

Sheridan also purchased and donated cakes made by Diane Ujioka.

“Any party that has Diane Ujioka cake in Cordova, that’s a good sign that it’s going to be a good party,” Sheridan said. “I’m just really interested in community service and especially as it relates to creating opportunity to fisheries.”

A large and diverse group of people advocated for and helped execute the fishery. Some of the celebrants of it success included:

Gov. Bill Walker, Rep. Louise Stutes, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten, ADF&G Commercial Fisheries Director Scott Kelley, state area wide shellfish and groundfish area management biologist Janet Rumble, the city of Cordova, Mayors Kacsh and Koplin, Fisheries Development Committee members Bob Smith, Warren Chappell, Gus and Bobby Linville, Trident Seafoods, the harvesters, the Native Village of Eyak;  Torie Baker, Alaska Sea Grant Cordova agent; John Renner, vice president, Cordova District Fishermen United; Christa Hoover,  executive director, Copper River Prince William Sound Marketing Association; Casey Campbell, general manager, Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp.; and Robin Mayo, president, Copper River Watershed Project.

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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.