Bering Sea crabbers promote changes to benefit crew
December 12, 2011
Since 2005 the crab fisheries have operated under a “catch share” system in which long time participants get a set amount of crab to catch during extended seasons.
Now, to help their crews become more invested in the Bering Sea fisheries, boat owners are proposing a preferential right of first offer to eligible crew when crab quota comes up for sale.
“The right of first offer would provide a tremendous opportunity for captains and crew to take a greater ownership stake in the fishery. It’s aimed at those who wish to make crabbing a career instead of just a seasonal job,” said Mark Gleason, Executive Director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, a harvester trade group.
Many cooperative members voluntarily capped their harvest fees at 65% for Bristol Bay red king crab and 50% for Bering Sea snow crab for the 2011 fishery and plan to continue to do so into the future.
In a five year review of the catch share program last December, industry stakeholders were asked by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to craft solutions related to crew compensation issues in the Bering Sea crab fisheries. By design, catch share programs are regularly reviewed, and allow modifications to better reflect realities out on the fishing grounds.
One of those realities is that Bering Sea crab crews are taking home nice pay checks.
According to a survey of vessel owners of approximately one quarter of the fishing fleet, crew pay from 2010 to 2011 averaged $1,600 per day for red king crab and nearly $1,900 per day for snow crab.
Gleason said the industry has followed the Council’s direction and taken a proactive role in shaping changes to the Bering Sea crab fisheries for the benefit of Alaska harvesters, processors and coastal communities.
Alaska crabbers presented their proposal to the North Pacific Council during its meeting going on through December 12 at the Anchorage Hilton.
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