Big Quota Buy Brings More Crab to Unalaska

Unalaska’s smallest processing plant is now a major player in the Aleutian Islands golden king crab fishery. A recent purchase by one of Bering Fisheries’ parent companies will bring an extra 1.2 million of pounds of king crab through the plant every year.

Dick Tremaine is the asset manager for Siu Alaska Corporation, which owns half of the plant. He says the purchase will help Bering Fisheries compete in a marketplace dominated by big processors.

“We’re a niche player. And so to find supply, we’ve found that the only way that makes sense under current law is to acquire quota. And that’s what’s happened here.”

Siu bought the quota from the Kodiak-based fishing company KDS, along with the catcher-processor vessel Patricia Lee. Tremaine says the plan is to split the quota, with Bering Fisheries getting the processor shares, and the catcher shares going to the F/V Aleutian No. 1 and other contract vessels.

“We think we can realize higher economic value by bringing the plant to shore,” Tremaine says.

Bering Fisheries will process the crab into single legs, as opposed to the clusters that the Patricia Lee produced. Tremaine says that cuts out the middleman processor, allowing Bering Fisheries to market directly to customers.

“We can add value and be cost-competitive by doing it that way — and at the same time, we’ll bring a lot more revenue, more fish tax to the community of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor.”

At its current dock price of roughly $3.50 per pound, Bering Fisheries’ new supply of golden king crab has the potential to bring $85,000 in raw fish taxes to the city’s coffers. Plant manager Rocky Caldero says it will also provide longer periods of employment for the processor’s 100 workers. Previously the plant shut down during shoulder seasons, but the new quota will reduce downtime.

Bering Fisheries and Siu Alaska are both subsidiaries of the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, a CDQ group.

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