SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton   Oct 15, 2013

Bering Sea crab fisheries start today; Boats idled Credit:jacobimages.com

Bering Sea crab fisheries start today; Boats idled
Credit:jacobimages.com

The Alaska King crab season opened today, but without IFQ permits most of the fleet of 80 vessels remain tied up in port.  Permits cannot be issued until the government shutdown is ended, or NMFS gets permission for a reallocation of personnel.
The delays are currently costing around $1000 per day per vessel, but things could get much more costly if the shutdown is not resolved in the next four or five days.
Tom Suryan, Captain of the Bristol Mariner, told NPR that the urgency in the crab fishery is to get king crab to Japan by mid November.  “If you lose a month of fishing, that would completely disrupt our market,” he told NPR this morning.
Disruption of the supply of king crab to Japan would further erode the Alaskan position compared to Russian king crab and would give up more market share to illegal fishing.
One part of the king crab fishery can start today, which is vessels fishing under the CDQ system.  The CDQ allocation, which gives 10% of the quota to vessels contracted to Alaskan Community Development groups, is administered by the state, and those permits have been issued. But it is not clear if vessels that need both federal and CDQ permits can take advantage.  Some report Japanese buyers seeking out CDQ companies for contracts.
For those that are able to fish, they are likely to get a price premium for the first crab, given the anxiousness of Japanese buyers to get product in time for the holidays.
Jim Balsiger, NOAA regional administrator, is still waiting for word from Washington allowing him to reassign personnel to get permits out.  There are some reports that this may happen within the next four or five days.
But the upshot is that the delay is currently a costly, if minor, imposition – similar to a weather delay which is not all that uncommon.   But anything longer than a few days could change the situation considerably, and lead to real and long lasting market damage.
One major processor told Japanese customers he expects the season to be delayed by 7 to 10 days.
Based on Maersk and APL shipping schedules, the last day a container can leave for Japan is Nov. 14th.

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