By Jennifer Grimes
Triplicate staff writer
Looking like they were waiting for a relative to get out of surgery, Crescent City crab fishermen crowded around Seafarers Hall yesterday to get word on whether their strike was over.
After two conference calls among the West Coast fishermens associations, talks ended in frustration. Fishermen grudgingly agreed to accept $1. 60 per pound for their crab, 15 cents under their goal.
Its Newport again, said Keith Olsen referring to Newport, Ore., which is settling for $1.60 a pound.
Everyone else had pushed for $1.75.
Were pretty disgusted. Theyve tied our hands, because their holding out the lower price, said Tom Timmer, the local representative for the fishermens marketing association.
Timmer said he tried to compromise with Newport, asking them to come up to $1.65. They refused.
As a result, Pacific Choice, the largest seafood buying conglomerate in the United States, has begun talks with Newport to arrive at a market price both sides will accept.
So, its just one port controlling all of our interests, Timmer said. Its pretty disappointing.
Olsen said he came up from Fort Bragg with his boat three weeks ago and comes every year for the crab season.
Its super frustrating having to wait and stay so far from home, he said. One year we had to wait till February 14.
A couple of local boat owners decided not to wait.
Kenyon Hensel brought home crabs last week, angering several of his fellow fishermen.
One guy called me a scab, but if I was a scab, I would be selling to their markets, and Im not, Hensel said.
The Grotto and other local restaurants are buying Hensels crab, which he markets and cleans himself.
He just has a little boat with 20 pots. He doesnt supply to the fisheries like the other fishermen, so it shouldnt effect their negotiations, said Sue Dyer owner of the Grotto restaurant.
Getting fresh crab and fish are crucial to Dyers business, she said, but because of the strike she thought seriously before buying from Hensel.
Emotions are running high right now. I just had a confrontation today with a fisherman; mad because I have fresh crab on the menu, Dyer said.
After trying to explain Hensels business, Dyer said the man stormed out threatening to form a boycott with the other fishermen.
Hensel said he has a sellers permit to sell to eating establishments and said others could do the same if they wanted to.
Timmer said he sold to restaurants during hard times, but not during a strike.
It gives the public the wrong impression and causes resentment among the whole industry, he said.
Nevertheless, Hensels trips will have no effect on Pacific Choices decision on pricing, Timmer admitted.
The hope in the harbor is to get word tomorrow on any agreements made between Newport and Pacific Choice.
When that happens, Olsen and Timmer said big plumes of diesel smoke will rise above the harbor, signaling that the race is on.