By Eric Tegethoff of Oregon News Service
Crabbers along most of the West Coast are not setting out to sea as the season starts because of a price dispute. The strike affects other professions associated with the crabbing industry as well.
Dungeness crab dinners could be hard to come by in Oregon and along the West Coast because of a dispute over the price crabbers get for their catch.
Fleets from Central California to the Canadian border are refusing to fish as the crabbing season opens along the coast. The strike is due to a price drop before Christmas, when Pacific Seafood began offering $2.75 per pound instead of $3 that was offered when the south coast opened for crab.
John Corbin, an Oregon fisherman and chairman of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, said crabbing is expensive, especially with the substantial amount of bait that is used. “They’re getting us on both ends here,” Corbin said. “They’re charging us more for bait and they’re wanting to pay less for the crabs. So, it’s just cutting into the bottom line, and we just can’t do that.”
According to Corbin, Oregon state officials have been mediating negotiations with the seafood company. Pacific Seafood has said it is just one of many buyers on the West Coast, and it doesn’t set the price alone. Corbin said commercial crabbers would much rather be fishing, but the price drop could set a precedent they can’t afford, especially with recent increases in fuel prices. He said the strike affects a lot of families.
“We’ve got about 1,200 boats, that’s 4,000 to 5,000 fishing families that are unemployed right now,” Corbin said. “The processors don’t have crab for their workers to process, so there’s processing families that are unemployed. There’s a lot of people affected by this.” On Wednesday, crabbing opened on Washington state’s coast, but no crabbing vessels set out. The Quinault Indian Nation has also joined commercial crabbers in the strike.