Golden king crab harvesters bring in the first 2,000 pounds

Teal Lohse helps guide totes of golden king crab as they are hoisted from the F/V Nip ’N Tuck. Photo courtesy of Diane Wiese

For the first time in over 30 years there was fresh golden king crab for sale at the dock in Cordova and 60° North Seafoods, LLC plans to sell most of it retail throughout the United States for the coming holiday season.

The crew of the Nip ‘N Tuck, owned by Teal Lohse, brought in a catch of 2,000 pounds of golden king crab, weighing on average a little over eight pounds on their first trip, said Rich Wheeler, chief executive officer.

“We brought them back to the plant and sold them off the dock,” he said. Locals snapped up about 500-600 pounds of the succulent crab.

“The leftovers we brought back to the plant and started cleaning and cooking them,” Wheeler said. “Now we will freeze the rest and sell them retail through Sena Sea. It will be branded as 60° North Seafood, but sold through the retail line all over the country. We are looking at about 15,000 pounds total.”

Wheeler said the catch looks like really clean crab.

“We were worried about whether it would be old shell and whether it would be full (of meat),” he said. Turned out the crab had a robust amount of meat.

Wheeler offered kudos to John Wiese, who realized the potential for bringing the fishery to Cordova. He noted that Wiese flew to Washington state in January 2020 to purchase cooking equipment.

“We ordered all this equipment, had a bunch of it built and it was delivered on the 10th,” (of October), Wheeler said.

John Wiese, owner of 60° North Seafoods. Photo courtesy of Diane Wiese

Since word spread of that first catch Wheeler said he has been inundated with text messages and emails of congratulations from friends and fellow fishermen, “and they can’t wait to get their hands on it,” he said. “It’s a real big deal. There’s a lot of opportunity for a golden king crab fishery.”

Wheeler also said that Cordova District Fishermen United has been very supportive.

“CDFU sees this as an opportunity for local residents to buy the fish and also as a boost for the city economy through landing taxes,” said Chelsea Haisman, executive director of CDFU and one of a number of locals who purchased fresh gold king crab at the dock.

“This crab was caught in a test fishery that is being used to gauge the current biomass estimate for golden king crab so we can hopefully reopen this fishery after the last 30 years of closure — something I spent a good part of last winter advocating for, writing letters, making calls, meeting with ADFG, fishermen and the Board of Fish,” Haisman wrote on Facebook. “There’s still a ways to go in the regulatory process to get a harvest strategy back into regulation (it was cut from the books in the ’90s), but the good news is that this test fishery will give the biologists the baseline data needed to reopen it longer term! Makes me so proud to see it coming full circle!”

Vivian Kennedy contributed to this report.