Federal Shutdown Could Delay Crab Fisheries

Friday, October 04 2013

Fishermen are gearing up for the opening of the Bering Sea's lucrative crab season. But they may be off to a late start this year, because of the federal government shutdown.

State managers set catch limits. But the National Marine Fisheries Service is supposed to divide up the crab and assign individual fishing quotas, or IFQs, to boats.

"There's nobody on staff with National Marine Fisheries Service [who is] available to issue IFQs as they are furloughed," says Heather Fitch.

Fitch is a biologist with Fish and Game. She says it's illegal for boats to harvest crab without these permits. But there's no way of knowing how long it will be before the government gets around to issuing them.

"Either someone would have to be authorized to come back to work in order to do so, or it will wait until the federal government is up and running again," Fitch says.

NMFS' law enforcement division is one of the few departments that's still open.

A NMFS enforcement officer says they're trying to figure out a solution. As a compromise, they may let crab boats put their pots in the water before they get their permits -- as long as they don't pull up any crab.

Jake Jacobsen is the executive director for the Inter-cooperative Exchange, a coop of 80 crab boats. He says it's never a good idea to leave crab pots unattended. But on the other hand, fishermen can't afford to start late.

"If there is a delay, we're at risk of not being able to land our crab in time to reach the all-important Asian New Year's market," Jacobsen says.

Last year, the coop tried to get most of its fishing done in the first three weeks of the season, so they could send their crab overseas to the Japanese market.Jacobsen says they wanted to do that again this year.

"We miss the market -- we may be looking at $5 million less," Jacobsen says.

The Bering Sea crab fisheries are supposed to open on October 15.

andrew on Monday, October 07 2013:

when your at work your at work most fisherman dont see any money for months so why cant congress keep working until they get the job done like the rest of us

MARK K. on Monday, October 07 2013:

Obama wouldn't make a good pimple on a Bearing Sea fisherman's butt. probably lousy crab also.

Disgusted Fed on Monday, October 07 2013:

Blame the law, not the employee... federal employees on furlough aren't allowed to "volunteer" to work, even if they wanted to. Our elected government seems bound and determined to make everyone feel the pain.

Bill on Saturday, October 05 2013:

These government employees are so selfish and self-centered. I've worked exempt salary for years - 40 hours is what i'm get paid for.... but regularly put in 50- 70 hours a week when necessary - so why cant the NMFS people put in a little time without pay - everyone else in the real world would/does. We shouldn't even have to ask should we ?

Site by Joseph Redmon