False Pass salmon strike continues over prices

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A small processor has agreed to pay 55 cents a pound for sockeye salmon -- the same price False Pass fishermen rejected this week from Peter Pan Seafoods, one of two large Sand Point processors in a price war with striking fishermen.

Kodiak Salmon Packers of Larsen Bay has agreed to take up to 450,000 pounds of salmon. The money made by a portion of the fleet will be pooled and shared with all the fishermen, Dick Jacobsen, mayor of the East Aleutians Borough and a fisherman, said Wednesday.

The agreement probably comes too late to save the June season, he said.

''I think it is a wash. I think we've lost the main portion of the run,'' Jacobsen said

Doug Karlberg, a Bellingham, Wash., fisherman who is on the price negotiating committee, agreed. ''It is going to be very difficult to salvage it for June. And we don't have an agreement for July,'' he said. ''We are still in tremendous straits out here.''

The next opening begins July 6.

False Pass fishermen last year were paid 85 cents a pound for sockeye, Karlberg said. Peter Pan started negotiations this year at less than half that amount.

The company agreed to 55 cents a pound for June, to be lowered to 50 cents a pound from July to September. The offer came with a sliding scale if prices rose -- something the fishermen wanted -- but the company refused to tie the offer to verifiable market prices, instead opting for an internal pricing system, Karlberg said.

The fishermen rejected the offer on a 195-to-46 vote.

The other large processor, Trident Seafoods, has not negotiated with the fleet of 241 permit holders. In the past it has met the price negotiated by Peter Pan.

Processors have blamed low prices on a glut of canned salmon on the market. But Jacobsen said Peter Pan and Trident have the capability of freezing the fish. He said Peter Pan had planned on canning half the product.

A local representative for Peter Pan, a Seattle-based company owned by Nichiro Corp. of Japan, did not immediately return a call for comment.

The strike entered its 11th day Wednesday. The price dispute comes on top of sharp limits placed on the False Pass fishery by the Alaska Board of Fisheries to address complaints that too many chum salmon were being intercepted before reaching the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.

After receiving a request from fishermen Sunday, the governor's office put together a mediation team that included Ed Flanagan, commissioner of the Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

''Peter Pan declined to accept the mediation,'' said Claire Richardson, a spokeswoman for Gov. Tony Knowles. ''At this point we stay in a standby mode.''

Jacobsen said if Kodiak Salmon could agree to 55 cents a pound and a sliding scale based on verifiable market prices, the large processors ought to be able to do the same.

''It tells us that Peter Pan is not being upfront with us,'' he said.

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