By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
Crab boats are tied up in nearly all the North Coast ports, striking against wholesale buyers' bottom-basement price offering.
Out only one week after fishermen begrudgingly accepted $1.40 per pound, buyers dropped the offer to $1.25 per pound, the lowest price in years.
Fishermen up and down the coast are now uniting to force the price back up to $1.40.
"You know $1.25 is just too low, $1.40 is too low, but it's better than $1.25," said established Del Norte County fisherman Karl Evanow.
This year's high crab yield brought more crab in the first week of fishing than some commercial fishermen caught all season last year.
Despite the abundance and the rock-bottom prices to wholesalers, Evanow said the price to the consumer just keeps going up.
"Things just don't equate. Cooked crab is being sold for $4.99 and sometimes $6.99 and it costs $21 to $25 a pound for picked crab.
"But it only costs the processors 60 cents a pound to process¬Ėcooking them, cleaning them and shipping ¬Ė and $1.25 per pound to us," Evanow said.
That means it costs processors $1.85 to deliver their product to the public. Evanow said fishermen are getting cut out of the profit margins, while the coast's biggest wholesale buyer Pacific Seafood Group keeps growing.
Local members of the Fisherman's Marketing Association met twice yesterday. Once to discuss what price they will settle for or hold out for and another meeting was to talk about how to rein in the handful of rogue fishermen in Brookings and and keep them from straying from the group.
"We want to make them realize that fishing for the cheap price hurts everyone," Evanow said.
Making matters frustrating for the union is higher-price offers from the smaller wholesale buyers like Eureka-based Carvalho Fisheries and Alber Seafood.
But because the smaller companies cannot buy the bulk of crab coming in from all the fishermen, the union says its members must stick together and not fish until the big buyer Pacific Seafood brings its price back up.