Bering Sea crabbers sitting out opener in dispute over prices

Posted: Thursday, January 18, 2001

UNALASKA (AP) -- Bering Sea Crab fishermen were continuing their strike after refusing to fish for the $1.45 per-pound price posted by Trident Seafoods on Wednesday.

The Bering Sea snow crab season opened at noon Monday. But most of the crabbers stayed at the docks after rejecting an earlier offer of $1.37 a pound.

''We're headed in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go,'' said Erling Jacobsen, manager of the Alaska Marketing Association.

The crabbers have said they want at least the $1.85 per pound they were paid last year.

That's an unrealistic demand, said Terry Shaff, president of Unisea, a major crab processor at Unalaska.

''There's still a big difference between their expectations of what they'd like to get and what the actual market prices are,'' Shaff said.

Nearly all the 193 boats registered for the fishery were honoring the strike. They were staying in port at Unalaska, Saint Paul Island, Akutan and King Cove.

Some of the crab fleet's catcher-processor boats were said to be ignoring the strike, however, and were fishing despite a petition drive asking that they sit it out.

''We are against them out fishing when we are in here and we will do no business with them in the future, and that's signed by 180 boats that have promised to never deliver a crab to these guys,'' Alaska Marketing Association President Gary Stewart said.

Catcher-processor crews butcher and pack their own crab on board, and sometimes buy crab from catcher vessels.

The catcher-processors have benefitted from the 1998 American Fisheries Act, which restructured the Bering Sea pollock industry.

The act limits the amount of crab sold to pollock-privileged processors, with the crab catcher-processors picking up some of the excess.

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