UNALASKA (AP) The Unalaska City Council voted unanimously to support a plan to give quotas to fishing vessel owners and processing companies in the Bering Sea crab fishery.
The crab rationalization plan voted on Monday night was approved in June by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and is now awaiting final action in the U.S. Congress.
Supporters say the processing quotas will provide stability to coastal communities in the Bering Sea by preventing fishermen from taking their crab out of the region.
And they say the individual fishing quotas will eliminate the race for fish, where fishermen deliver crab to processors and return to fishing as soon as possible.
The precedent for processor quotas was established in the Bering Sea pollock fishery a few years ago with the passage of the American Fisheries Act in 1998. City natural resource analyst Frank Kelty said it has brought more revenues into Unalaska and allowed for an increase in the production of higher value fish products.
Processor quota opponents argue that they give too much control to a small group of largely foreign-owned corporations.
Bobby Storrs, a local fisherman and fisheries activist, promised a referendum vote to try to overturn the action of the city council, which voted 6-0 to support the full crab rationalization program.
He supports quotas for harvesters and regional protections, but called processor quotas the poison pill'' that fishing companies insisted on, if any form of crab rationalization is to take place.
Unalaska City Councilmember Gregg Hanson said he'd prefer the crab rationalization program be limited to vessel quotas. The plan includes regional protections that require the delivery of crab to the Pribilof Islands, a requirement he says comes at the expense of Unalaska.
But Hanson said rationalization is needed for the survival of the crab industry.
In a related development, The Alaska Crab Coalition representing harvesters has come out in support of the plan again, following a commitment for adjustments to the price arbitration system.
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