Crabbers in Kodiak still haven’t come to an agreement with the island’s canneries on prices for this year’s harvest. And this weekend, the fleet voted again to continue its week-long stand-down – with no plans to meet again until they get a better offer from processors.
Kodiak’s fleet voted down local processors’ offer of $3.25 per pound for Tanner crab on Friday. Canneries had initially offered $2.50 per pound ahead of the season. And Sunday night, crabbers voted to press pause on the season altogether until they get a price from canneries they think is fair.
“We all thought we were going to be fishing, but we all understand why we aren’t fishing,” said Kevin Abena, the secretary and treasurer for the Kodiak Crab Alliance Cooperative, which represents permit holders in the fishery. “So, we’re just waiting.”
However, crabbers in Chignik and the South Peninsula have started fishing. That fleet is about half the size of Kodiak’s Tanner fleet, at 65 registered vessels. They came to an agreement with Peter Pan in King Cove for $3.25 per pound – plus profit sharing, which bumps up the final payout to fishermen depending on the wholesale price of the crab.
But that’s a sticking point for crabbers in Kodiak. They haven’t been offered profit sharing or more than $3.25 per pound from local canneries, and say that flat rate still isn’t enough to go fishing.
Nearly 130 vessels are registered for Kodiak’s Tanner crab fishery, which has the bulk of this year’s harvest, too. This year’s harvest levels for Kodiak’s fishery are the biggest since 1986, at 5.8 million pounds. That’s more than five times the size of last year’s quota. Harvest levels for Chignik and the South Peninsula are 1.5 million pounds of Tanners combined.
Abena said Kodiak’s fleet has continued to stay united in their resolve to hold out for a better price.
“Honestly, across the country in the fishing industry it’s so hard to keep something like this together,” he said. “I think it only happens when such a bad initial price is started out with from processors, and in our situation from four separate processors.”
Kodiak processors have not commented on the ongoing price dispute.
Abena and his crew and others in the fleet have started preparing for other fishing seasons that have either already started or will start soon. He says some will head out for cod season, which started at the beginning of the year. But Tanners are still the top priority.
“They 100% have the mentality that as soon as they get word that we’re going to settle on something that they are going to stack their gear, bring it back to town and put the other pots on and go out Tanner crabbing,” said Abena.
Kodiak’s Tanner crab fishery closes at the end of March – meantime, Abena said the crabs aren’t going anywhere before then.