Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Seawatch: Fuel shortage hits crabbers

Missed fuel delivery hurts crab fishermen seeking to refuel at St. Paul

After dealing with the closure of several processing plants in Dutch Harbor and Akutan due to COVID-19 outbreaks, Bering Sea crab fishermen now have to manage another costly and time-consuming problem: not enough fuel in St. Paul in the Pribilof Islands.

By regulation under the Individual Fishing Quota program, boats are required to deliver their crab in either the Pribilofs or the Aleutians, hundreds of miles apart.

However, boats required to deliver their catch to St. Paul have encountered a fuel shortage restricting them to 3,000 gallons, far short of their needs, requiring them to run to Dutch Harbor for fuel.

According to Alaska Public Media, bad weather and other logistics are hampering fuel deliveries. They have been waiting for a delivery for more than two months.

APM talked to crab fisherman Oystein Lone, captain of a 98-foot crab boat, who said he remembered previous fuel shortages on the island but nothing close to the current problem.

“I seem to remember we had some rations, years back, but it was nothing like this,” Lone said.

He and his five-person crew on the F/V Pacific Sounder just started fishing for bairdi Tanner crab on the eastern side of the Pribilof Islands in the middle of the Bering Sea.

Lone and his crew are prepared to deliver their catch in St. Paul. Normally, they’d unload the crab and resume fishing immediately.

But this year, after unloading they’ll run more than 250 miles south to Dutch Harbor to refuel before heading north again. Some of the other four dozen crab boats currently fishing for snow and bairdi crab are more than 500 miles away from Dutch Harbor, he said.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this, where the vessels are having to offload and run to Dutch Harbor to fuel up and then run back up to the grounds, adding three to four days onto their trips,” Lone said. “And that’s getting to be the normal this season.”

Lone added that the 3,000 gallon limit is almost nothing. He usually leaves port carrying about 18,000 gallons of fuel. But after his latest delivery in St. Paul, he has only about two-thirds of that, and plans to ease up on the throttles to make it through his trip before heading to Dutch Harbor to refuel.

“If you ran out of fuel, that would be devastating,” Lone said. “You don’t push it close to that at all. But I’ve got a feeling some guys are probably pushing it a lot closer than they’d like this year because of the fuel restrictions.”

Cristy Fry can be reached at

More in News

Coast Guardsmen and state employees load the Together Tree bound for the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on a truck on Nov. 29, 2021 after the Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry transported the tree from Wrangell. (USCG photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston)
Governor’s mansion tree arrives in Juneau

No weather or floating lines could stay these Coast Guardsmen about their task.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone the legislation approving grant funds after members of the community raised concerns about what books would be purchased with the money, as well as the agency awarding the grant. The council will reconsider the legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council to consider library grant again

The council earlier voted to postpone the legislation after concerns were raised about what books would be purchased.

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

Study: PFD increases spending on kids among low-income families

New study looks at PFD spending by parents

Image via the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Nikiski soil treatment facility moves ahead

The facility, located at 52520 Kenai Spur Highway, has drawn ire from community residents.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Bycatch becomes hot issue

Dunleavy forms bycatch task force.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

The Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson star is Illuminated on the side of Mount Gordon Lyon on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, just east of Anchorage, Alaska, in observation of the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. A crew from the base went to light the 300-foot wide holiday star, but found that only half of the star’s 350 or so lights were working, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Airmen from the 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron Electrical Shop haven’t been able to figure out what was wrong and repair the lights, but they plan to work through the week, if necessary, base spokesperson Erin Eaton said. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
Avalanche delays holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city

ANCHORAGE — A holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city for more than… Continue reading

AP Photo/Gregory Bull,File
In this Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, photo, George Chakuchin, left, and Mick Chakuchin look out over the Bering Sea near Toksook Bay, Alaska. A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to connect all four communities on Nelson Island, just off Alaska’s western coast. The $12 million grant will pay to take the trail the last link, from Toksook Bay, which received the federal money, to the community of Mertarvik, the new site for the village of Newtok. The village is moving because of erosion.
Federal grant will connect all 4 Nelson Island communities

BETHEL — A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to… Continue reading

Most Read