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Fish Factor

Fleet of Alaska crabbers on way for startup of crab fisheries
By Laine Welch


October 06, 2008

An eager market will be competing for reduced supplies of king crab this winter and that is likely to boost prices for fishermen.

A fleet of about 86 boats is on its way to the Bering Sea this week for the October 15 start of king and Tanner crab fisheries. For Alaska's largest king crab fishery at Bristol Bay, crabbers will drop pots for a total catch of 20.36 million pounds of red king crab, compared to 20.38 million pounds last year. Ten percent comes off the top for the CDQ (Community Development Quota) allocation, designed to help the economies of remote Western Alaska communities that border the Bering Sea.

While U.S. king crab buyers might be tightening their belts due to the sluggish economy, that's not the case for Alaska's #1 customer: Japan. According to market analyst Ken Talley of Seafood Trend, demand for Alaska king crab is strong in Japan and that should be reflected in higher prices. Imports of frozen crab into Japan through June dropped 27% from a year ago, and average wholesale prices increased by 41.5% on a per-pound basis.

Retail sales are key to the king crab market in the U.S. and reduced supplies have pushed up wholesale prices by nearly 40% for imported product (primarily from Russia). Talley said some major U.S. buyers may forego king crab until after the prime holiday sales season when prices may soften.

Alaska crabbers have proposed an opening price of $5.15/lb for red king crab, according to market expert John Sackton of That compares to of $4.35/lb last year. Fishermen receive a base price and then a final adjustment after the crab is sold.

Alaska crabbers compete with Russia and Norway in world markets, and fishermen there also are negotiating for higher prices this year.

In other crab news, the catch quota for Bering Sea snow crab (opilio Tanner) is reduced by 7% to 58.5 million pounds, compared to 63 million pounds last season. The harvest for bairdi Tanners, the larger cousin of snow crab, also decreased to 4.3 million pounds, a reduction of 23%. There will again be no fisheries for king crab at the Pribilofs and at St. Matthew Island, although blue king crab stocks there are on a slow but steady rebound.

Celebrate Seafood Month!

October is National Seafood Month - a distinction proclaimed by Congress a quarter century ago to recognize one of our nation's oldest industries. Government figures show that nationwide, the seafood industry provides more than 250,000 jobs and contributes $60 billion to the U.S. economy each year. Alaska deserves special merit during Seafood Month, as it produces over half of our nation's seafood - more than all the other states combined. For 19 years in a row, Dutch harbor has ranked as the nation's number one port for seafood landings. The seafood industry is Alaska 's number one private employer. It ranks second only to Big Oil for the tax dollars it pumps into state coffers.

More fish facts: Americans eat just over 16 pounds of seafood per person each year. (Compared to 63 pounds of beef.) America's seafood favorites have remained largely the same for five years: shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, pollock and tilapia. The nation's seafood appetite is being fed mostly by foreign imports- nearly 80 percent of all fish and shellfish eaten in the U.S. comes from other countries.
Speaking of other countries -- that 16 pounds of seafood that Americans eat pales when compared to other parts of the world. The Japanese, for example, eat 146 pounds of seafood per person each year. U.N. figures show that in Greenland, it's 186 pounds and 200 pounds per person in Iceland. The country with the lowest per capita seafood consumption is Afghanistan at zero.

And where in the world do people eat the most fish? The South Pacific islands of Tokelau, where each person eats more than 440 pounds of seafood every year.

Expo goes Green!

The first Green Industrial Business and Career Expo is set for October 10 at the Puget Sound Industrial Excellence Center. Generating electricity from geothermal energy is a main topic and will include a presentation by Bernie Karl of the Chena Hot Springs Resort. The Expo also includes workshops where industrial firms can learn about energy efficiency, how to reduce emissions, and "green collar" jobs of the future. Sponsors include the Seattle Office of Economic Development, Seattle Community College District, the National Wildlife Federation and the Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle.

Pacific Marine Expo will take place Nov. 20-22 at the Qwest Center in Seattle. The event features four tracks: safety, workboat, fisheries/fisheries business and charter boats. Keynote speaker is Dr. Jim Balsiger, NOAA Fisheries director, who will discuss Marine Fisheries in Transition.

See how wind can power fishing boats at


Laine Welch has been writing about Alaska's seafood industry since 1991. Her Fish Factor column appears each week in nearly 20 papers and websites. Her daily Fish Radio programs air on 30 stations in Alaska. This article is protected by copyright and may not be reprinted or distributed without permission. Visit or contact


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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