Copper River Delta fishermen return to work

Posted: Tuesday, June 05, 2001

CORDOVA (AP) -- Copper River Delta salmon fishermen were back at work Monday after calling off a price strike.

The fishermen hung up their nets Thursday after processors refused to pay the price they agreed to before the season, $1.10 per pound for red salmon.

But fishermen Sunday decided to suspend the minimum price agreement and go back to the standard market-driven pricing of fish.

An unexpected bounty of Copper River reds led to the conflict between the two sides. Fishermen have netted more than three times as many fish as biologists had predicted at this point in the season.

With a bounty of fish also heading up the river, the state Department of Fish and Game loosened dipnet rules in the Chitina area for the middle part of the month.

The decision came after biologists detected more than twice as many fish passing a sonar counter as they had projected. The total has reached nearly 250,000 salmon.

As for the commercial fishermen down at the delta, they caught nearly 539,000 reds before they stopped fishing Thursday. The department had predicted 184,000 fish caught by that date.

The king salmon catch has also surpassed expectations, but only by a small margin.

Processors say the market is glutted in all areas: the fresh fish market in the Lower 48, as well as the Japanese frozen market and the canned market in Europe.

The price for copper river reds now is $1 per pound.

Bill Gilbert of processor Norquest Seafoods said the strike probably cost the Cordova area $1 million in revenue.

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