Tanner crab harvesters, whose catch is being offered at $2.50 a pound in the Kodiak area compared to $8.30 a pound a year ago, are standing down from the fishery that began on Sunday, saying the 130-vessel group is holding out for a better price on their catch.
“There’s a lot of unity here because the price is so bad,” said Kevin Abena, secretary and treasurer of the Kodiak Crab Alliance Cooperative (KCAC), which includes several Cordova fishermen.
The decision to not fish at Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula and Chignik came after Trident Seafoods Alaska Pacific Seafoods, OBI Seafoods and Pacific Seafoods all offered $2.50 a pound for the 2023 total allowable catch of 7.3 million pounds of Tanner crab. Queries to Trident Seafoods about their price offer received no response.
Abena, the captain of F/V Big Blue, said the cooperative would meet next on Friday, Jan. 20, but that no cooperative members would be fishing until Jan. 22 at the earliest, assuming they were offered a fair price. He said he is optimistic that better prices will be offered, but meanwhile plans were underway to move crab from Kodiak harvesters to King Cove or Dutch Harbor, where processors are offering $3.70 a pound, plus a retroactive boost for their crab harvest after sales are made.
“Everything has gone up so much it’s hard to see a profit margin,” said Shawn Dochtermann, captain of the F/V Isanotski, one of dozens of fishermen standing down at Kodiak. That includes fuel, insurance and vessel maintenance, he said.
While the larger crab boats can move their catch westward on their own, the smaller vessels —the 32-foot gillnetters which make up the majority of the fleet — will need to transport their catch on fishing tenders, a trip that will take up to three days from Kodiak, he said.
“This is a very diverse fleet,” he said. “Eight-five percent of our fleet cannot travel to King Cove or Dutch Harbor. We would love to see this crab stay in Kodiak, but that’s not likely to happen, so we are trying to get this crab out of town.”
The Tanner crab fishery remains open by regulation through March 31.