Articles Posted in Crabbers

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Commercial Dungeness crab fishermen on the Washington and Oregon Coast earned $3.10/pound at the beginning of the season in December 2014. By Christmas they received $4.50/pound, and by the middle of February 2015, prices jumped to $9/pound. Why the nearly three times price increase?

One reason is this year’s harvest is down but demand is still high. According to Hugh Link, executive director for the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, last year Oregon fishermen caught 14 million pounds by the middle of February; this year they caught 7 million pounds. The Chinook Observer reported that this year Washington caught 6.2 million pounds by February 5. The quality of crabs has been the best in years, but there aren’t that many of them.

Crab is served more often at holiday parties and dinners during Christmas and New Year’s, so demand is higher. China’s New Year was February 19 and their crab demand was very high. Demand coupled with crab scarcity equals high payment to crab fishermen.

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A crab fisherman reportedly injured his abdomen while pulling in crab pots on the F/V IRENE H on January 13, 2015. Crew from the fishing vessel called the Coast Guard to report the injury and ask for medical assistance. The Kodiak Coast Guard Air Station then flew a Jayhawk helicopter crew to Shelikof Strait and the IRENE H.

Weather conditions were rough: reportedly 25 mph winds and 7-foot seas.

“The operation was challenging from the start,” said Lt. Greg Dahl, pilot of the Jayhawk. “The dynamic weather conditions made for a rough ride but once on scene, the captain and crew of the vessel were very cooperative which enabled us to smoothly execute a successful rescue.”

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Crew from the 120-foot fishing vessel TRAILBLAZER called the Alaska Coast Guard on Thursday, December 11, 2014 to report that a crew member’s hand had been crushed in a crab pot launcher and needed immediate medical care. The Coast Guard duty flight surgeon recommended a medevac, and a Kodiak Jayhawk helicopter crew flew to the vessel located approximately 75 miles north of Cold Bay. They safely hoisted the 23-year old man into the helicopter and flew to Anna Livingston Memorial Clinic in Cold Bay for further medical assistance.

“Having assets in forward operating locations like Cold Bay during the busy fishing seasons is beneficial to mariners in times of distress,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Francell Abbott, watchstander, Coast Guard 17th District (Alaska).

Weather on scene was reported as 17-mph winds, 10 miles visibility and 37 degrees temperature.

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Operation “Safe Crab” has been set in motion on the Washington and Oregon coasts in an attempt to limit further deaths in the commercial crab fishery. In November, the Coast Guard will be conducting dock-side examinations throughout the Northwest ports for the safety of the crab fleet. These inspections will be limited mostly to inspection of life rafts, epirbs, and survival suits.

The Washington and Oregon commercial crab fishery has a high incidence of deadly accidents. This may be the result of smaller boats operating in what can sometimes be severe weather conditions. However, the Coast Guard notes that most all casualties are preventable if good safety practices are followed. Remarkably, passage of safety regulations for commercial fishing vessels has been opposed by many fishermen due to the high cost of implementation.

Although some safety regulations have recently been passed, they have only slightly lowered commercial fishing fatalities. Many of the regulations do not apply to the Washington and Oregon commercial crab vessels because of their size, and the fact that most all of the vessels are designated as “uninspected.”

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Tragedy has struck again in the Alaska crab fleet. On January 6, 2009 Keith Criner of Stockton, CA was pulled overboard while fishing on the SEABROOKE, 22 miles northwest of Cold Bay. Reports indicate that Criner got tangled up in a crab pot line while setting gear, and was pulled overboard. The Coast Guard called off the search for the crewman after an extensive air search failed to locate him. The SEABROOKE is home-based in Kodiak, AK. Despite heightened awareness of the need for vessel safety, working as a fisherman in Alaska remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. The 2008 year resulted in multiple vessel sinkings, with loss of crewmen’s lives, including the sinking of the Alaska Ranger and the KATMAI.

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January 23, 2008 the 78-foot crabbing vessel, Anna Marie, became grounded on the north end of Copalis Beach, WA. No injuries were reported. Attempts continue to try and pull the vessel back to deeper water. 2000 gallons of fuel and 200 gallons of other petroleum products are aboard, and they appear to be secure for the time being.

Source: USCG

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The Coast Guard will be conducting safety spot checks, voluntary dockside exams, and offering basic safety training in various Northwest ports from November 26-28, 2007 as part of “Operation Safe Crab.”

Coast Guard examiners will be checking that vessels have all the proper safety equipment on board and that proper pot loading practices are being followed. As part of the equipment check they will be looking at survival suits, EPIRBS, and life rafts, to make sure they are ready for use should an emergency at sea occur. Past checks have found that 25% to35% of EPIRBS and life rafts are installed improperly. If any deficiencies are found during these checks the vessel may be restricted from operating until they are corrected.

The ultimate goal of “Operation Safe Crab” is to reduce the number of lives lost at sea. Commercial Dungeness crabbing vessels have the highest fatality rate of any West Coast fishery.

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At 1:30 am on February 7, 2006, the Coast Guard received a VHF call. Two red flares were spotted near Tillamook Bay, Oregon. A Jayhawk helicopter and two 47-foot motor lifeboats were dispatched to the area.

Debris was found identifying the vessel as the Catherine M., a 45-foot crabber whose homeport was Warrenton, Oregon. The body of Jeff King, 30, of Garibaldi, was also found on a nearby beach by a local rescue team, along with a life raft and three survival suits. The bodies of Trona Griffin 30, of Garibaldi, Oregon, and Craig Larson, 31, of Hammond, Oregon, washed ashore in the days following.

The last contact from the crew came the night before the incident, when Craig Larson’s wife spoke to him by phone. She was told the boat was returning to port with around 1,200 pounds of crab.
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A 23-year-old man lost most of his hand on a fishing vessel near Akutan Island on Monday night, the Coast Guard said.

Louis Acosta was on the 120-foot Trailblazer, homeported in Newport, Ore., when the incident occurred near the island, Lt. Mara Booth-Miller said. She said the Coast Guard was still investigating and it did not immediately know how the accident happened.

Booth-Miller said the boat was fishing for Alaska Seafood Producers.