Program aims to get young people into crab fishery

Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, an organization that represents about 70 percent of the fleet, has launched a program to help the next generation of crabbers get into fishery.

The program takes a minimum of 10 percent of any block of crab IFQs for sale and offers it to active captains and crews for right of first offer.

The idea is to make smaller blocks available, and give captains and crew members an opportunity to buy in without the investment of a multi-million dollar boat. Those crew can then take their pounds aboard a boat and build on that investment.

The program is in response to what is commonly called “the graying of the fleet,” where permit and IFQ holders tend to be aging out of the industry, with not enough young blood moving in.

One recent study by the state of Alaska found that 45 percent of all permit holders were between 45 and 60, with the average age of 47.

There were roughly twice as many permit holders between 45 and 60 as there were between 30 and 44.

Crew members, on the other hand, tend to be much younger, with an age distribution centered around 21.

The Alaska Legislature has tried to address the problem with a couple of bills, one that raised the maximum amount that can be borrowed on a fishing-related state loan from $100,000 to $200,000.

The other partnered with the University of Alaska in evaluating and improving fisheries-related programs around the state.

To that end, the North Pacific Research Board received a grant of $335,000 to better define the problem and look for solutions.

That project started last year and has an end date in 2016. 

The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program also holds a biennial Young Fishermen’s Summit, which offers a chance to meet, socialize with, and talk about issues with other young fishermen from around the state, as well as well-known fishing industry leaders.

It involves three days of training in the land-based aspects of running a fishing operation, such as marketing, business management, the fisheries regulatory process and the science impacting fisheries management. 

Brokers are reporting very limited availability of crab shares, with opilio shares running $20 per share, Bairdi tanner shares $13-$15 per share, and king crab shares for sale virtually non-existent. 

Sign up for the Right of First Offer program at

Cristy Fry can be reached at