Kodiak tanner crab fishermen refuse to fish, hold out for higher prices

Posted: Friday, January 28, 2005

KODIAK - Tanner crab fishermen continued to refuse to fish nearly two weeks after the season opened, waiting for a processor to offer a price they say is fair.

The United Salmon Association is holding negotiation talks but not making progress, fishermen told the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

"(The stand down) is due to the extreme difference in price comparison between offers for Tanner crab in Kodiak and what was actually paid for Tanner crab in Dutch Harbor," the association said in a statement.

Kodiak crab traditionally has brought a higher price, the association said.

The association has notified all local processors of the need for preseason written contracts that address everything from advance price to product quality.

"We're waiting for a processor to give us a price. We'll accept any offer for discussion in contract form," said association negotiating team member Bill Fiorentino.

Ocean Beauty and Alaska Pacific Seafoods offered $1.50 per pound and Trident Seafoods and Alaska Fresh Seafoods offered $1.85. The fishermen have their sights set on $2.25 a pound.

The Tanner fishermen have offers from companies based in Dutch Harbor, whom they would not name. Traditionally, Tanner crab has been sold locally.

"There is a potential deal in Dutch Harbor, but we're trying to keep our crab on island if we can," said fisherman Alexus Kwachka.

"I do know they are willing to come to Kodiak with tenders and tender our crab back to Dutch Harbor to process them at or near our asking price," said fisherman Mark Alwert. "But since it is still in negotiations, it is all up in the air."

The fleet is concerned about where the crab will be processed with the future possibility of crab rationalization. If Dutch Harbor companies receive individual processor shares and establish a history of buying crab in Kodiak, it could pave the way for most future crab catches to be processed by regulation in Dutch Harbor, Alwert said.

"All indicators show that our quotas are only going to go up," he said. "Right now, our main goal is to establish our bairdi Tanner crab separate from the opilio crab in the Bering Sea, and to negotiate with our local processing community and get these crab processed here. We want to get the guys fishing as soon as possible with a fair price and a fair start clause. We all voted in a fair start clause."

Alaska Pacific Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Western Alaska Fisheries, Alaska Fresh Seafoods and Trident Seafoods have purchased or currently buy crab. Global Seafoods North America is getting permits to do so.

"The real conflict for us is the disparity in price between Unalaska and Kodiak," Kwachka said. "They paid $2.60 in Dutch Harbor this year and they're offering us $1.50 at one plant and $1.85 at another. It's a big difference."

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