Yes, Copper River Seafoods just posted a preseason price. And yes, it's encouraging.

Jun 13, 2016

Up to $1.25 for "Excelent Fish" caught this week, going out fresh to a market that is hungry for the product, says CRS. Company says it intends to post a price every Sunday for the week ahead.

Credit courtesy Copper River Seafoods

KDLG: Copper River Seafoods Bristol Bay manager Vojtech Novak posted a price for this week's sockeye catch, and says he intends to post a weekly price every Sunday. It's an unusual step for one of Bristol Bay's buyers to list a price before the catch comes in.

"You know, the owner of our company was a fisherman, and he feels like he's still a fisherman," said Novak. "His dream was always to know the price before going fishing, and we're trying to work on that and give our fishermen a price. Before they go fish, they know what they're getting."

Copper River Seafoods opened a second plant in Bristol Bay last summer, moving into the Naknek facility most know as the old Baywatch. Before Copper River, it housed a fly-by-night cash buyer known as Extreme Seafoods which also posted a preseason price in 2014, only to fold and allegedly leave some fishermen underpaid in the end.

Building on what the company calls a successful model in Togiak, Copper River added new tenders and buys from a fleet of 25 to 35 Naknek drifters to up their presence in Bristol Bay. Last year, they bought between four and five million pounds, and hope to do so again this year.

"Fishermen are our partners in this industry, and we need to listen to them," said Novak.

CRS specializes in the fresh market. After a run to the Copper River itself that has come up short so far, along with major problems for farmed salmon in Chile and Norway, Novak says the market is eager for Bristol Bay catch.

"There's kind of a shortage of sockeye, and the market is hungry for the fish right now," said Novak.

The base price being offered this week is $.75 per pound, with bonuses for chilling, bleeding, and those that will ship out fresh, totaling $1.25 per pound. Fishermen left the Bay with a base price of $.50 last year, though many buyers have since have paid out some increases.

"I would applaud the individuals that did this for putting a number out there," said BBEDC President and CEO Norm Van Vactor, who has decades of experience in the Bristol Bay processing industry. He said the price is a "positive statement," and certainly "better than it was," and hopes things continue going in the right direction.

Will other buyers follow suit in price or procedure? "It's hard to say how different companies will react," offered Van Vactor. "I think there will probably be opinions all over the board."

Let us know what you think. Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org or weigh in for the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report by calling us at 907-842-5281.