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Alaska snow crab processing in St. Paul on ice, for now

Jim PaulinDutch Harbor Fisherman
Aaron Jansen illustration

More boats headed out to the snow crab grounds early this week, although the St. Paul harbor in the Pribilof Islands remained clogged with ice.

Trident Seafoods vice president for operations Paul Padgett in Seattle said Monday that the St. Paul plant had not received any snow crab in about 10 days because of Bering Sea ice inside and outside the harbor.

Padgett was cautiously optimistic that deliveries would resume soon. He said Trident has hired a small Homer-based tugboat, the Redoubt, to break ice inside the harbor, and assist crab boats with docking in St. Paul.

The St. Paul plant had processed about a third of its quota before being shut down by ice. Some of the plant's 400 employees were temporarily relocated to the Trident plants in Akutan and Sand Point, where processing continues. They will return when production resumes, Padgett said.

The St. Paul facility can process a maximum of 500,000 pounds of crab daily, and that rate, Trident would need 30 days to process its remaining quota, Padgett said.

In addition to Trident, the one other processor in the Pribilofs is Icicle Seafoods floating processor Robert M. Thorstenson, formerly the Stellar Sea.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Heather Fitch in Unalaska said the number of snow crab boats registered had increased to 57 this week, with nearly all out fishing. Ice continued to slow the fishery, she said. The total harvest through Monday stood at 26.3 million pounds, 24.9 million in individual fishing quotas, and 1.3 million pounds in the community development quota fishery benefiting rural western Alaska communities.

The total Bering Sea quota is 88.9 million pounds of snow, or opilio, crab.

The Eastern Aleutian District small boat Tanner crab fishery closed Feb. 10, when Fish and Game projected the 35,000 pound quota would be taken in Makushin Bay.

Only one boat participated in the fishery limited to vessels with a maximum length of 60 feet, said Fish and Game biologist Britta Baechler in Unalaska. The Unalaska Bay and Akutan sections were closed this year for conservation reasons.

This article was originally published by The Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is reprinted here with permission.