This Friday photo shows the F/V Bering Sea docked at Snug Harbor Seafoods in Kenai. A former crab fishing vessel, the Bering Sea now serves as a tender for the processing company. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Snug Harbor’s fishing tender has a long history in crabbing

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that Coastal Villages Region Fund is a federal Community Development Quota organization.

Commercial fishermen delivering to Snug Harbor Seafoods are attended by a tender vessel with a long history and more equipment than it needs for the job.

The Bering Sea, owned by Snug Harbor Seafoods, is a 114-foot retired crabbing boat of iron/steel alloy built in 1973 and originally homeported in Washington state. With wooden decks and the company’s logo emblazoned on its side, it dominates the end of the dock in the Kenai River as workers stocked it with groceries and worked to get it ready for the upcoming season last Friday.

Snug Harbor Seafoods owner Paul Dale said he bought the vessel a few years ago when it was put up for sale by Coastal Villages Crab, a subsidiary of federal Community Development Quota organization Coastal Villages Region Fund, which coordinates commercial crab fishing. The corporation holds commercial crab harvesting quota through the National Marine Fisheries Service, but when the crab fisheries’ catch limits decreased, the corporation began offloading equipment.

“They had to make choices as to which vessels to keep and which ones to sell, and this was one that went on their sell list,” Dale said.

However, the vessel wasn’t done with its crabbing career when it came to Snug Harbor Seafoods. When the crab quota amounts increased the following year, Dale said the company leased part of a quota and headed for the Bering Sea to fish for Tanner crab.

“We have crabbed two seasons ourselves with it,” he said. “We couldn’t crab this year because quotas are now low.”

That happens as the catch quotas fluctuate. Each year, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which work together to manage the crab fisheries, evaluate and set a catch limit based on harvestable biomass in particular areas and determine a management strategy, including closing a crab fishery entirely if necessary.

In 2005, as a rider on a federal spending bill driven by then-Sen. Ted Stevens, the National Marine Fisheries Service implemented a system called the crab rationalization program. When the program went into place, vessel owners, processors and coastal communities received quota shares as a percentage of the annual total allowable catch in the crab fishery, adjusted each year in the form of individual fishing quotas that are set in pounds.

Over the years, the program has led to the consolidation of the crab fishing fleet. As quota owners have sold their vessels, they have begun leasing out parts of their quotas to other vessel owners, depending on how large the allowable catch is in a year.

Some studies after the rationalization program went into place identified crew employment, harvester-processor relationships and community participation as issues, according to an August 2016 community impacts summary provided to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Crab rationalization is still a divisive issue in many communities, the summary notes.

“A number of people and organizations remain fundamentally opposed to rationalization programs on philosophical grounds, even in some cases where there have been apparent material benefits from the program,” the summary states. “Particularly troubling to some is the perceived differential distribution of beneficial and adverse impacts in general and the specific disproportional benefit that has accrued to quota owners not otherwise actively participating in the fishery through the quota leasing process.”

The program has also led to some crab vessels engaging in other fisheries, while others stopped fishing entirely, according to the summary.

Dale said the time the Bering Sea spent out crabbing for Snug Harbor Seafoods was “great fun.” But for now, the vessel will just be delivering salmon.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

This Friday, May 25, 2018 photo shows the F/V Bering Sea docked at Snug Harbor Seafoods in Kenai, Alaska. A former crab fishing vessel, the Bering Sea now serves as a tender for the processing company. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

This Friday, May 25, 2018 photo shows the F/V Bering Sea docked at Snug Harbor Seafoods in Kenai, Alaska. A former crab fishing vessel, the Bering Sea now serves as a tender for the processing company. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

This Friday, May 25, 2018 photo shows the F/V Bering Sea docked at Snug Harbor Seafoods in Kenai, Alaska. A former crab fishing vessel, the Bering Sea now serves as a tender for the processing company. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

This Friday, May 25, 2018 photo shows the F/V Bering Sea docked at Snug Harbor Seafoods in Kenai, Alaska. A former crab fishing vessel, the Bering Sea now serves as a tender for the processing company. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

More in News

COVID-19. (Image CDC)
38 new resident COVID-19 cases seen

It was the largest single-day increase in new cases of COVID-19 among Alaska residents.

Anglers practice social distancing on the upper Kenai River in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in late June 2020. (Photo provided by Nick Longobardi/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)
Exploring the Kenai’s backyard

Refuge to start open air ranger station

The entrance to the Kenai Peninsula Borough building in Soldotna, Alaska, is seen here on June 1, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly approves plan for COVID-19 relief funds

The borough is receiving $37,458,449, which will be provided in three installments.

‘We need to make changes now’

Millions in small business relief funds remain unclaimed.

Brian Mazurek / Peninsula Clarion 
                                Forever Dance Alaska performs for the crowd during the 2019 Fourth of July parade in Kenai. The team will not be performing in the parade this year due to the new coronavirus pandemic. They will instead perform during an outside July 4 production hosted by Kenai Performers.
The show must go on

American icons to take stage in outdoor July 4 performance

Soldotna’s Chase Gable, a customer service agent with Grant Aviation, prepares to load and unload baggage from a plane at Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Airport sees decline in traffic in wake of pandemic, Ravn exit

Passengers leaving Kenai this year through May are down 18,000.

Registered Nurse Cathy Davis (left) and Chief Nursing Officer Dawn Johnson (right) work at a table to get COVID-19 tests ready for the public Friday, May 29, 2020 at the Boat House Pavilion on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. South Peninsula Hospital is now offering free COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic people with no appointments necessary at the Boat House Pavilion through June 6. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
3 cities, 3 testing strategies

Peninsula communities take different approaches to COVID-19 testing.

Cars pass the City of Homer advisory signs on Wednesday morning, June 24, 2020, at Mile 172 Sterling Highway near West Hill Road in Homer, Alaska. The sign also reads “Keep COVID-19 out of Homer.” (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
‘Don’t get complacent,’ governor says of pandemic

Alaska saw 36 new cases of COVID-19 in residents and 12 new nonresident cases.

Refuge reopens some trails to public

Burn areas provide new views

Most Read