It’s slow going for brokers who deal in quota shares for crab in the Bering Sea.  Most holders are taking a wait and see approach on the crab stocks, hoping for an uptick before they sell. Few sellers make it tough to place a value on the shares.

“Red crab is down between $60 and $65 and for opilio it’s hard to say because there are no sellers to speak of. For vessel shares I’ll speculate somewhere in the $27 to $28 range, although that is quite speculative.”

 Jeff Osborn at Dock Street Brokers in Seattle is the go to guy for crab shares, which break down to two main categories: vessel and skipper shares.

“Skipper shares are reserved for people who are actively fishing on crab boats. You have to have participated in the crab fishery in the past 365 days in order to purchase skipper shares. Vessel shares are much more lenient on who can own and what sort of qualifications.”

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Vessel shares can be held by a qualified entity, corporation or business regardless of recent participation.

On the skipper share side, Osborn says there’s been an uptick in activity due to a looming ‘use it or lose it’ deadline.

 “Basically there needs to be participation in the crab fishery within the past three years, or another Alaska fishery, if you are an initial recipient. Otherwise, effective June 30 for the 2018/2019 season they will not receive any IFQ to harvest. And then a year later, June 30, 2019 if they still have not satisfied the recency requirement, they will lose their quota share, it will just go away.”  

The recency requirement is aimed at reducing the exorbitant lease rates charged by absentee owners of crab shares, and instead making them available to guys who are actively participating in the Bering Sea fisheries.

Osborn estimates between 100-120 crabbers have  transfer eligibility for skipper quota but many could lose it under the new rules.

Another Right of First Offer option, or ROFO, also makes crab shares available to crew.

“The intention of the ROFO is to set aside 10 percent of any transaction of vessel shares to be sold to ROFO qualified individuals. Then they can purchase some or all at the same price that is sold to the individual or entity that is buying the 90 percent of the quota. So it provides an avenue for people to pick up smaller chunks than they might be able to otherwise.”