Monday, May 30, 2016

Crab rationalization a decade in

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is set to meet next week in Kodiak.

One of the items on the agenda is this 10-year review of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab rationalization program.

You remember crab ratz, right?

It was a revolution in crab fishery management, implemented in the fall of 2005. It involved assigning individual fishing quotas to what was a dangerously competitive crab fleet. The program also established processing shares for the companies that pack the lucrative catches of king and Tanner crab.

So, how has this program worked out?

That's what the 10-year review tries to tell us.

Deckboss imagines very few will care to read the full 244-page report. So you might want to skip straight to Page 226 of the document (Page 235 of the PDF) for the summary and conclusion.

One of the most interesting points in the conclusion is that "incremental consolidation continues in both the harvest and processing sectors."

This builds, of course, on the radical fleet consolidation we saw right after rationalization was implemented.

A deeper discussion of fleet capacity and participation begins on Page 69 of the PDF. Some really interesting details there.

And be sure to check out the section on crew employment and earnings beginning on Page 106 of the PDF. My impression from the discussion and tables in this section is that captains and crewmen — those fortunate enough to still have jobs in the reduced fleet — are making considerably more money than they did pre-rationalization. But perhaps you will read the data differently.

The council isn't expected to make any changes to the crab rationalization program at this meeting.


Anonymous said...

What a lot of snark. A reader might guess that the author doesn't care much for the crab rationalization program.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the entire report never touched on the effect rationalization has had on the Alaska salmon tender fleet. One of the most dramatic consequences of crab rationalization.

Consolidation has led to not only a drastic reduction in new boat building, but also the elimination of an entire generation of qualified crew.

The buyback itself eliminated a number of actual boats, disqualifying them from both fishing and tendering. With the consolidation of quota on fewer and fewer boats, many more left the fishery and tendering altogether as it was no longer economically feasible to just tender if you’d leased the boats quota.

The money generated to absentee quota holders subsequently left the fishery. No new capital investment in boats was made. No new crab boats means no new tenders. Crabbing and tendering went hand in hand in complimenting the economics of sustaining this type of multi-use vessel.

The crab fleet for years was the “apprentice” program for all types of Alaska boat operators and engineers, not just crab crews. Crab deckhands became engineers and ultimately became captains. New crews came up through the ranks and consistently filled the pipe line with new people.

Crab crews always tendered the boats as well in the summer months with professional captains and crews. That consistency of new qualified or qualifying young people is now gone by virtue of the small number of vessels now fishing quota.

Unfortunately we are now left with a severe shortage of both; new tendering vessel to replace older out of date boats. All faced now with the possibility of new Coast Guard Alternative Safety Compliance Program rules that may force many out of business. And, a lack of well-trained young captains and crews.

Regardless of your position on Crab Rationalization in and of itself. The unintended consequence is something that has become an ever increasing challenge in the tendering business.