SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Year-end Brings Glimpse of New Crab Management Results
By Laine Welch


December 27, 2005

As the year draws to a close, it gives us a first glimpse at how the crab rationalization plan is starting to play out in the Bering Sea.  The new management system began this fall with golden king crab in mid-August, followed by red king crab and snow crab on October 15.
jpg Laine Welch

Here is a sampler of facts and stats from state and federal sources:

The Coast Guard reported no lives or vessels lost during the fall crab fisheries.

The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery ended December 8 (by regulation it can run through mid-January). That compares to a four day fishing season last year. A fleet of 89 boats (down from 250 last year) delivered 16,372,400 pounds of king crab in 255 landings, or 99 percent of the catch limit.  The average price was $4.50/lb, down 20 cents from last year. (On the quota share market, shares of red king crab topped $30 a pound, according to Dock Street Brokers.)

The Aleutian Islands golden king crab fishery remains ongoing. As of December 23, a fleet of eight boats (down from 22) had delivered 3.9 million pounds in 52 landings, out of a 5.7 million pound quota. The average price to fishermen is $2.65, down from $3.50.  That fishery can continue through May.

A fishery for bairdi Tanner crab was reopened this year in the Bering Sea for the first time since 1996. Only seven landings have been made so far totaling about 250,000 pounds, 16 percent of the 1.6 million pound quota. The dockside price for bairdi Tanner crab is $1.50/lb.

Although the fishery for snow crab opened in mid-October, it has so far drawn little interest. Six landings were made by year's end (330,000 pounds), barely one percent of the 33 million pound catch quota. The snow crab fishery will begin in earnest early next year, and can continue through May. The fishery lasted ten days last season.

Fewer pots were on the grounds, in direct accordance to the trimmed fleet. Pot usage for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands fall crab fisheries dropped to 24,000 compared to 69,000 pots last year - reductions of 65 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

Of special interest to Kodiak: ADF&G/Dutch Harbor reported landings of 774,000 pounds of king crab by ten vessels to town, roughly four percent of the 16.3 million pound catch limit. ADF&G said they were "surprised" to see landings that are very similar to Kodiak's   averages for the past ten years.

The Bering Sea/Aleutians Island crab rationalization plan is undergoing intense scrutiny during an 18 month review through April 2007.  By then, coastal residents will have their own facts and stats revealing what the new style of management has meant to them and their communities.

"Do you realize how many gallons of paint, pairs of gloves and boots, fuel and lube oil, candy bars, boxes of Cap'n Crunch, steaks and radars and buoy balls and girlie magazines aren't being purchased from marine businesses?" said John Van Amerongen, outgoing editor of the Alaska Fisherman's Journal.

To that end, Kodiak officials have hired University of Alaska economist Gunnar Knapp to do a study on the impacts of crab rationalization on employment, compensation and expenditures. The Aleutians East Borough is helping to fund the project, which is scheduled to be completed in March 2006.
SCARY SALMON WARS- An international coalition calling itself the Pure Salmon Campaign (PSC) has filed a truth in advertising complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over a recent promotional campaign by salmon farmers. The group Salmon of the Americas (SOTA) spent nearly a half million dollars recently in a glitzy national media blitz, touting the health benefits of so called "ocean farmed" salmon. The full page ads - especially targeted to women who are pregnant or planning to be - claimed farmed salmon is the purest fish you can buy, and grown under strict environmental controls. In its lawsuit, the Pure Salmon Campaign says the SOTA ads go "beyond public relations to dangerous misinformation."

The PSC is a project of the National Environmental Trust and claims partners in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Chile. The group states it "seeks nothing less than to transform the salmon farming industry."  Its mission rests on one premise: that salmon can be farmed safely and with minimal damage to the environment if the industry adopts stricter standards.  

The Pure Salmon Campaign launched its own media volley to counter the claims made by SOTA.  In a full page ad last week in the New York Times, a big beat up farmed salmon sits atop the head of a very pregnant woman.  Underscoring it are the words:  enough to make you sick. The ad then talks about fecal waste in farmed salmon pens, sea lice and high levels of toxins and contaminants in the fish (it makes a passing mention that wild salmon is less contaminated). The ad concludes by saying until the industry cleans up its act, farmed salmon is "definitely not what the doctor ordered." 

The PSC campaign might be well meaning ­ but its ad is so glaring and scary, it could very well backfire and turn people away from eating salmon, period! To make it worse, campaign director Andrea Kavanagh said in a press release: "Telling pregnant women to eat salmon because it is good for their health is like telling teenagers to start smoking because it's good for their lungs." Note that she did not differentiate between wild and farmed salmon. Ouch.

Industry reports said the salmon farmers are shrugging off the attack and look forward to settling the debate in a federal court.

From the Seafood Intelligence web site: US COULD BAN IMPORTS OF FARMED SALMON FROM COMPANIES SHOOTING SEALS; NUTRECO ON HOT SEAT: A legal opinion by a Washington, DC law firm provides a "strong and directly applicable tool to address" seal culling (illegal in the U.S.) outside of the U.S. Under this opinion, foreign companies culling seals or sea lions in the vicinity of their fish farms could be banned from exports to the U.S.

Fish caught from the salmon farms operated by companies in foreign countries that engage in lethal deterrence is subject to the importation ban of section 102(c)(3)" of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), advised activist Don Staniford to Nutreco, majority owner of the world's #1 farmed salmon company, Marine Harvest.

Staniford said over 5,000 sea lions and seals have been killed since 1990 in British Columbia. In Chile, thousands of sea lions are reportedly shot and killed each year by guards hired expressly for that purpose. It is estimated that 3,500 seals die annually from gun shots in Scotland, and to a lesser degree in Norway, Staniford said. The salmon multi-nationals will now look more closely at their culling policies, Seafood Intelligence said.


Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. Her Fish Factor column appears weekly in over a dozen papers and websites. Her Fish Radio programs air on 27 stations across Alaska.

Publish A Letter on SitNews
        Read Letters/Opinions
Submit A Letter to the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska