State Moves Shrimp Fishery to Spring | Waterside

The Department of Fish and Game told the council that a spring harvest could help rebuild the region’s declining prawn stocks by taking fewer egg-laden prawns than in the past. fall.

Wrangell shrimpers, however, question the wisdom of the change, which they say could harm marketing efforts and reduce the value of the catch – with no clear benefit to the resource.

“It probably took a lot of anglers by surprise,” said Otto Florschutz, who has been fishing shrimp in Wrangell for more than 20 years. The change eliminated fishing this fall.

Florschutz, who has fished shrimp in May for the past few years, said fall shrimp are tougher than spring catches, which translates to a better product to market.

“For many of us who have developed markets … a lot of my markets are around the holidays,” particularly targeting Alaskans, said Chris Guggenbickler, who has fished for shrimp since 1983.

Guggenbickler was at the Fisheries Council meeting in Anchorage when members voted to move the shrimp season to the Southeast. “I was the main opponent,” he said.

Local Fish and Game Advisory Committees in Sitka and East Prince of Wales Island have submitted proposals to the Fisheries Board to move the fishery away from the start of October.

Spring quality is a big issue, said Guggenbickler of the Wrangell advisory board. “It doesn’t freeze well, there are stains, there are leftover eggs that are stuck in mud which is hard to wash off,” he told KFSK public radio last week. petersburg.

“I just feel like at the end of the day commercial fishing will be worth less,” he said on Saturday.

Florschutz has also developed its own markets, processing its catch on board and working with a Juneau distributor to sell much of its shrimp. Of the roughly two dozen shrimpers in Wrangell, many run their own processing and marketing or sell to Sea Level Seafoods in town, he said.

The trap fishery targets larger, firmer spot prawns, while the separate trawl fishery targets sidebands and pinks.

In addition to quality issues, spring-caught Alaskan shrimp will be marketed around the same time as catches in British Columbia, rather than retaining the fall market for Alaska, Guggenbickler said. A spring fishery will also clash with locals who go out and harvest shrimp for personal use and subsistence needs, he said.

Although the shrimp pot fishery is open from Haines to the southern border of Ketchikan, most of the activity is in the central and southeastern parts of the southeast, with Wrangell fishermen working in the districts 6, 7 and 8, north, west and south of the city.

There are about 100 license holders in the southeast, Guggenbickler said, and while the season lasted five months, it fell to just eight or nine days before fishermen reached the indicative harvest level.

The region-wide catch in recent years has been around half a million pounds. Over the past two decades, its average off-ship value has been $2 million, KFSK reported.

The board was split over the change.

Israel Payton of Wasilla was convinced that the potential benefit to shrimp populations was worth it.

“Let’s play the long game on this one,” Payton said, as reported by KFSK. “I know it’s disruptive. I could be wrong in my vote on this, but I will support it. I think this will potentially lead to increased GHLs (Indicative Harvest Levels) in the future, and that’s a good thing.

Willow board member John Wood was not swayed by any improvement in shrimp numbers.

“More likely than not, I imagine you would see improvement,” Wood said. “How much? Open to guess. That doesn’t make up for an almost total disruption of a shrimp fishery that has been around for a very, very long time, has created its own niche and created its own expertise in harvesting this product.

The vote was 4-2 to approve the season change, with John Jensen of Wood and Petersburg voting no.