February 6, 2023

Kodiak Tanner’s shrimp fishermen are stepping back until processors offer higher prices

Boats have been packed into Kodiak Harbor since the first week of January.

Kodiak tanner crab fishermen remained on strike Wednesday after two meetings of the Kodiak Crab Coalition Cooperative last weekend. The cooperative meetings are not open to the general public, but the majority of government license holders in the fisheries are members and are able to attend.

Boats have been packed into Kodiak Harbor since the first week of January.

The price originally quoted was $2.50 per pound. The processors bumped the amount to $3.25, but at Sunday’s cooperative meeting, the fishermen still said no, Homer fisherman Ivan Stonorov said after the meeting. There are 162 permit holders in the Kodiak State crab fishery. 20 have a Homer zip code.

Kevin Abena is skipper of the F/V Big Blue and secretary/treasurer of the Kodiak Crab Alliance Cooperative, which represents more than 120 licensees.

On Sunday, Abena told The Kodiak Daily Mirror’s Kevin Bumgarner that “this was probably the best meeting we’ve ever had as far as everyone has the same mindset”.

“No one is going to fish for $3.25,” he told the Daily Mirror.

After Friday’s meeting, Abena told the Daily Mirror that the Kodiak Crab Alliance Cooperative approached Kodiak processors and made two offers: one based strictly on an increased price per pound, and the other offer involved a profit-sharing model similar to that used by Peter Pan Seafoods Bering Sea Crabbers is available in King Cove.

Abena reported the Kodiak Crab Alliance Cooperative has received feedback from some Kodiak processors, but there has been no price change. As a result, the alliance did not set a date for another meeting.

In a phone interview on Thursday, Stonorov made some suggestions as to why the market price is so low compared to last year.

With no input from processors, these are somewhat speculative, but Stonorov suggested one reason may be the volume of Canadian opili crab in the market.

The Alaska quota is also very high this year and processing in this quantity requires an additional processing step.

“To keep up with the processing, they have to ‘dip’ a lot of crabs. If you freeze a crab and don’t dip it in some kind of acidic solution or fully cook it, the flesh will turn blue and it’s not good, at least commercially,” Stonorov said.

One topic for discussion, which featured journalists and industry representatives at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium held in Anchorage this week, was an assessment of the Kodiak fishery in the context of the 2023 closure of the federal Bering Sea crab fishery.

A point made in a presentation by Scott Goodman, Executive Director of the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation, and later discussed, was a positive impact of COVID on the overall crab market (across species). For example, canneries received federal subsidies and provided additional funding when they ran out.

Another selling option the Kodiak fishery might be considering is for the larger boats in the fleet, some of which may have turned to Kodiak after the Bering Sea closed, to ship Kodiak products to processing plants in western Alaska like Dutch Harbor where fishermen can also operate access the Bering Sea profit-sharing scheme, Stonorov said.

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