Fish Radio

Crabbers pay cost of Bering Sea fishery, not federal dollars

September 25, 2015

Bering Sea crab fishing Credit: alaskadispatch

Bering Sea crab fishing
Credit: alaskadispatch

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Bering Sea crabbers cover the costs of their fisheries. Will it matter with a government shut down? More after this –

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Bering Sea crabbers are again facing the possibility of a delayed fishery as Congressional Republicans threaten to shut down the government, this time over federal funding of Planned Parenthood. A shutdown two years ago stalled the crab opener by two days. Estimates peg costs to the fleet at over $5 million as boats stood idly by.

It was a huge mess last time. We have a very tight time frame – when the fishery opens October 15 we need to be out there – we need to get that crab caught, processed and on its way to Japan to take advantage of the holiday market.  

 Mark Gleason is director of  the trade group, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers. The shutdown last time meant no one was on the job to issue permits for catch shares of the crab.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski –

You have a situation where you not only have harm to the crab fishermen, but also to the processors in the area. So when you think of the economic impact to a region because you don’t have somebody in an agency who is there to pick up the phone, sign the piece of paper to issue the harvest limits, nothing can happen.

The thing is, the crab fisheries are not beholden to federal dollars. The crabbers pay a fee based on their catches which covers the management costs. Mark Gleason:

We are paying the cost of management, that cost recovery fee is not subject to appropriations. So my read on this is that the people that are issuing the quota should not be subject to the furloughs as long as they’re working under this cost recovery structure.

In fact, the fee was upped from .65 percent to 1.48 percent to cover increased costs to maintain and upgrade the permitting and landings systems.  That yielded more than $3 million in coverage costs last season.

Senator Murkowski –

 This is a program where the users pay into it and from the proceeds of those fees, that’s how we manage the fisheries. It’s one of those situations where it pays for itself, so you don’t need to wait around for a budget.  

  The crabbers are hopeful senior fishery managers get the message.

A government shutdown will have impacts on all federally managed fisheries, meaning from three miles out.  More than 80 percent of Alaska’s seafood by volume comes from federal waters.

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Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.