Bering Sea crabbers agree on price, ending strike

Posted: Friday, February 02, 2001

UNALASKA (AP) -- Bering Sea snow crab fishermen voted 100-27 Thursday to accept a lower price than last year for their harvest, ending their 2-week-old strike.

The season opened Jan. 15, with striking fishermen holding out for last year's $1.85 per pound. They settled for $1.55.

''It's not a price we're really happy with, but we've been here for a long time, and felt this was the appropriate time to end this tie-up and go fishing,'' said Jake Jacobsen, manager of the Alaska Marketing Association, which represents fishermen in price negotiations.

UniSea Inc. president Terry Shaff said the Unalaska processing company is happy the strike is ending, but disagreed with fishermen's price demands.

''Obviously we have a different opinion. We're the ones selling it, and we go out and talk to the customers. We have to sell it too, and we know what the prices are. The $1.55 is pushing way, way up on the edge.''

The fishermen have a harvest quota of 25.3 million pounds, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Fishermen said they hope to avoid any more long and costly strikes in the future.

''We hope to work with the processors in the future to resolve these disagreements in a more expeditious manner without tying up the fleet, and having them incur the expense of housing and maintaining a lot of employees with nothing to do,'' Jacobsen said.

He suggested a pre-season bargaining system similar to one in place in the snow crab fishery in Newfoundland, Canada.

George Adair, a crab fisherman on the Arctic Baruna II, was eager to go fishing.''

''I'm happy it's over. We've been here since Jan. 4. It's been a long haul,'' he said. Adair said he kept busy ''watching movies, cleaning the boat, and trying to stay sane.''

Pollock and other fish kept workers busy at Westward Seafoods and UniSea in Unalaska, but workers were idle at Royal Aleutian Seafoods, which processes mostly crab.

The fishermen began leaving port Thursday afternoon, but won't start fishing until 4 p.m. Saturday. That's to allow a safe and orderly departure, and to give boats in Unalaska, Akutan, King Cove and the Pribilof Islands an equal chance to reach the fishing grounds.

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