Thursday, August 18, 2005

Record Dungeness harvest in Oregon

The numbers are in, it's an all-time record. Over 33 million pounds of dungies were landed in Oregon this season that just ended. The season runs from Dec. 1 to August 14. They had 20 million pounds by February, and it could have tapered off and been a great year, but the fishing help up ok all the way to the end.

So what's up with that? Well, it just looks like a great year. Next year looks like it will be a good year. There were a lot of just undersized crabs last year that became legal this year. They don't expect that to happen next year. So with a good 3 year old cohort and a good number of 4 year olds it added up to a record.

S.E. Alaska, by comparison, only gets a couple of million pounds of dungeness a year. So Oregon results drive the price. Lots of crabs also expands the market. So next year with a smaller harvest, there should be decent prices.

It isn't so much of a problem in Alaska where there is usually only one boat's pots in a bay, but in Oregon and Washington there is a lot of pot raiding going on. This is the antithesis of cooperative marketing among fishermen. It's sad to see from that perspective too.

Not that many non-fishermen in Alaska haven't pulled a fisherman's pot or two through the years. It's just that it was customary to but in a couple bottles of beer to pay for the crab on the way to the beach for a crab boil. Now that crab is worth more, you'd have to put in at least a six-pack for a couple of crabs. The tendency is to think that the crabs are not "caught" when they are still on the botton, whether in a pot or not. This has been an on-going problem in Puget Sound for many years. With the higher prices for dungies, it's becoming more of a problem in Oregon too.

There isn't a lot of margin in processing dungeness in Alaska. The mainstay buyer in Petersburg quit buying, just like they did shrimp. I'll tell you what, fishermen sure get jerked around by not having their own secondary processing capacity.

In the face of all these odds, I was made the Economic Development Director for a small Alaska Penninsula village who wanted to break into the dungeness game. They needed pots, a dock, a plant, shipping infrastructure, plant personnel, a rapid decrease in the sea otter population and a marketing campaign that would beat all others. Is what they and other small communities needed was a seafood industry primer, like this blog.

The Internet has opened up many ways for residents of these small remote communities to make money, that would beat old style fish processing. But if you have a stake in the seafood industry already, keep read'n.


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