After two weeks of staying at the dock, Kodiak’s Tanner crab fleet is finally going fishing. Crabbers agreed to a price with the island’s processors on Saturday.
Each of Kodiak’s four canneries offered slightly different deals – Alaska Pacific Seafoods agreed to $3.35 per pound plus a retro payment – which can boost the final payout to fishermen after the season. Pacific Seafood also agreed to $3.35 per pound with a possible retro to fishermen. OBI settled with crabbers for $3.25 plus profit sharing, and Trident Seafoods stayed at $3.25 per pound.
It wasn’t exactly the deal Kodiak crabbers were hoping for, and some boats from Kodiak may still take their crab out west where processors are offering slightly more per pound. But ultimately, 80% of those in attendance at Saturday’s meeting agreed – it was time to go fishing.
“We stuck together, we’re gonna roll this thing out together, and we’re looking at it as a victory,” said Kevin Abena, the secretary and treasurer for the Kodiak Crab Alliance Cooperative, which represents the fishery’s permit holders.
Crabbers were initially offered $2.50 per pound ahead of the season, which started Sunday, Jan. 15. And at one point, nearly 200 vessels up and down the Aleutian Chain said they weren’t going fishing unless they were offered a better price.
Crabbers in Chignik and the South Peninsula started fishing last week after coming to an agreement with canneries in King Cove. But as of Friday, about 130 vessels from Kodiak still weren’t fishing. Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game also confirmed it hadn’t received any harvest reports or landings in that time.
“It’s important for these processors to know that we can stick together and organize and and honestly get a more fair deal on the table,” said Abena.
With a deal in place, crabbers will now set their gear at noon on Monday, Jan. 30 for the start of Kodiak’s Tanner crab season.
Fishing can go fast in Kodiak’s Tanner crab fishery – last year, the fishery closed after just about a week. This year’s quota is much larger, at 5.8 million pounds; that’s more than five times the size of last year’s harvest level. Abena said they’re expecting a bottleneck at local canneries, and some vessels might be stuck waiting to unload their harvest.
But despite all that, he says the fleet is more than ready.
“For a fisherman, he’s worried about when he’s going fishing and how long he’s going to be out fishing,” he said. “And now we have that first piece of that puzzle – we have when we’re leaving – that’s huge.”
Abena is also the skipper of the fishing vessel Big Blue – he said after the last two weeks, he’ll feel a sense of relief when he pulls out of the harbor.