Story last updated at 5:24 p.m. Thursday, June 13, 2002

Crab fishery rationalization takes big step
By Sepp Janotta
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted 11-0 on Monday in favor of a plan to institute quotas for Bering Sea crab fishermen, processors and ports, according to FIS.com, the Web site for Fish Information and Services. Meeting in Dutch Harbor, the council voted to give IFQs to each of the boats in the fleet of over 250. Quotas will be based on the boat's average annual catch history. The boats would then be required to deliver 90 percent of the catch to various specified processing companies. The processing plants' share of the catch would also be metered out by individual quotas. This is likely a major victory for the processors, who have been worried that some plants might receive less fish if IFQ-holding fishermen had the time to shop their product around for the best market.

MUCH OF THE CRAB FLEET, not surprisingly, was opposed to processor quotas as they have been included in the councils' motion. Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, an advocacy group for small-boat fishermen, were among vocal opponents to processor quotas, FIS.com reported. The controversial practice could upset the economic balance of the fishery by creating the "processor cartel," the Boston Herald said in an editorial. The portion of the fishery set aside for Western Alaska communities <> something that is already provided for by the Community Development Quota Program <> would jump significantly from 7.5 percent to 10 percent. The councils' Bering Sea crab rationalization plan was still being fine-tuned as of Wednesday, the final scheduled day of meetings. Ideas on Gulf of Alaska groundfish rationalization were also scheduled for discussion, during the week of council deliberations.

KODIAK SALMON FISHERMEN did not fish the June 9 opening and remained on strike as of Wednesday at noon. Processors and fishermen have not found a workable contract that could send the fleet to fishing and the processing plant workers to their jobs. The United Salmon Association's asking price for red salmon was 65 cents a pound, the same offer it had last year. Processors in turn countered with an offer of 45 cents and they made some "very, very insignificant movement up from there," said Bruce Schactler, president of the USA. So far the fleet has unanimously rejected these offers. "There's not been a heck of a lot of constructive conversation with the major processors," Schactler said. "In fact, one of them has stated in writing that they have do not intend to" buy fish if the offer goes above the original counter offer. Meanwhile a strong early showing of reds begins to trickle out of the coastal waters and into their native streams.

PUTTING FISH ON ICE just got a little easier in Dutch Harbor with the opening of a new Refrigerated Storage of Alaska facility. The company, which hopes to cash in on the millions of pounds of frozen fish brought into Dutch Harbor each year, expects to become a middleman between commercial fishing and the cargo fleets, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Refrigerated Storage of Alaska general manager Neal Forde predicted the service would be of interest to smaller processors who would prefer to offload their catch of a few hundred tons when a cargo ship is not available. The facility would benefit large cargo ship operators who want to avoid the expense of docking for less than several hundred tons.

DISCHARGES OF OIL DRILLING mud into the waters of Cook Inlet will apparently continue to be excluded from the state-mandated project review processes provided for by the Alaska Coastal Management Program. The Knowles administration passed legislation last week that it claims ensures "Alaska can allow for timely development permitting while also protecting the environment." That legislation has drawn the ire of environmental groups, including Homer-based Cook Inlet Keeper, which claim that protections afforded to fisheries and sensitive coastal areas are being de-clawed. Environmentalists claim the new law, among other things, allows the state to continue to exclude exploratory drilling waste from consideration during the review process. In a press release, Knowles said, the choice to include or exclude such "activities" in a review would be up to "the coordinating agency's discretion." Bob Shavelson of the Cook Inlet Keeper responded: "This bill deals a one-two punch to fisheries and coastal resource protection throughout the state." Both sides agree that the legislation came as a result of a recent unanimous decision by the Alaska Supreme Court, which found the state had failed to review drilling waste discharges from Forest Oil's Osprey platform as mandated under the Alaska Coastal Management Program.

UNITED FISHERMEN OF ALASKA'S Subsistence Outreach Program sent out a reminder about the Friday deadline for comments on the 2003 federal subsistence fisheries proposals. Among the proposals being considered is one that statewide would allow the harvest of fish outside of established seasons and harvest limits for use of food in traditional religious ceremonies. Written comments on proposals postmarked by Friday can be sent to Federal Subsistence Board, Office of Subsistence Management, 3601 C Street, Suite 1030, Anchorage, AK 99503 or e-mail Bill Knauer@fws.gov or fax comments to 786-3898.

COOK INLET BLACKCOD fishermen will have 72 hours to get after their quarry during an opening that kicks off at noon on July 15. The harvest-level guideline is targeted at 67,000 pounds. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued the emergency order because harvest-level guidelines have been exceeded in each of the past two seasons.

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