I helped one of my processors offload king crab
tonight. He called today, and said we’ll offload from
10 pm to 2 am, and can you make it. I work a 10 hour
shift for my state job, and it ended at 9 pm, so I
said I’d be there.
I was the “enforcer”. My processor wanted me there at
the weighing tote to be sure no soft-shell crab were
put in the box. Soft shell crab are crab that have
recently molted, and so have little meat in their
shells. It’s pretty easy to detect when you pick up a
crab. One of the deckhands said they “triple checked”
the crab for soft shell before they put the crab in
the fish hold.
Of course, this was not so true. I found numerous
soft shell crab. The fishermen would throw them into
the tote in the hold, and I would pretend to shuffle
the crab to even out the tote load, but they knew and
I knew I was squeezing the crab legs, checking for
softshell. Many were put in the tote that I
unceremoniously tossed out and on deck as soft shell.
No one argued. It’s the game. It’s the differnece
between fisherman and fish seller. You don’t sell
your customer soft shelled crab, because he won’t be
your customer again – but your processsor? You’ll
sell him whatever you can. So goes the long term game
between fishermen and processor. Fishermen think all
processors are out to screw them. Processors know
fishermen will try to sneak in soft shell crab. Thus
the need for the enforcer.
The processor tried to hand me a pile of money for
helping him, but I refused. It’s been a long time
since I’ve been on the deck or the hold of a fishing
boat, and even though it was tied up to the dock, it
still was great – and reaffirmed my assertion that I’m
soft as hell. Used muscles tonight I forgot I had.
So, we loaded up cardboard boxes with 700 lbs or so of
crab each, and my processor had to get them to the
airport at about 2 am. Then, the crab are shipped
live to Seattle, then trucked to Vancouver, BC, and
returned to salt water revival tanks. My processor
said on his last load, only 4 crab died enroute. Crab
sure are a great “fish” to handle. You can toss them
around without worry of bruising, like salmon. And,
they will stay alive out of water for 12 hours, and
then you can return them to saltwater, and they’ll
live on. Pretty sweet.
So, it’s now 3 am here, and I”m winding down with a
toddy and late night sports talk radio. Life is
pretty good. A beautiful night – about 34 degrees
and no precipitation – perfect weather for offloading crab.
Mark Stopha and Sara Hannan
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
Wild Salmon and Salmon Pet Treats
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801