Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lowering Of King Crab Lease Fees Under Discussion

A spokesperson for the Bering Sea Crabbers, Ed Poulsen, says the majority of quota share holders in the Bristol Bay crab fishery have voluntarily agreed to hold the cap on fees for leasing out their quota shares to 65 percent in the next season.

Poulsen said details on discussions involving lease rate fees and other topics that came up at the Nov. 21 meeting of the crab industry work group in Ballard, Washington, would be presented at the December meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage.

The industry standard for the lease rates has been about 70 percent, according to Poulsen, but in some cases they have been even higher, while lease rates for opilio crab quota shares have stayed at 50 percent.

Lease rates are one of several contentious issues that have been under discussion since the federal crab rationalization legislation was approved several years ago.

The NPFMC has scheduled eight hours of its December meeting to hear Bering Sea and Aleutian Island crab stakeholder reports, all five-year review issues.

Some industry harvesters, like Mark Israelson, skipper of the Island Mist out of Kodiak, have said they feel the Bristol Bay red king crab quota share should be 50 percent, just like that for the opies. Another option, said Israelson, would be a 65 percent lease fee, with all expenses for the crab trips paid by leaseholders.

Others, including the Crewman’s Association, based in Kodiak, are seeking more changes in the crab rationalization program to benefit the crew, including provisions to pay crew after normal expenses, including then taking the lease fees off for the crab quota after buyback and individual fishing quota taxes have been subtracted.

The association is also seeking redistribution of 35 percent of the crab quotas to a crew pool held by the state of Alaska and released to the industry after a fair and equitable compensation package for all crewmen that fish the region. The crab skipper quota would be subtracted so that it is 32 percent to allow the skippers access to fair contract for their labors.

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