By SUSAN SCHELL
Pilot Staff Writer
Four fishermen sat near the docks at the Port of Brookings Harbor Friday afternoon, their arms folded across their chests in defiance.
Although legally they could begin placing their crab pots in the water that day, they would not budge until they received word on what they considered a fair price for their catch.
The commercial fishing boats sat tied to their moorings, their sterns heavy with crab pots.
As time ticked by, representatives from the fishermen's associations of various ports conferred with each other by speaker phone.
The representatives spent most of the day Friday reviewing price offers from the crab buyers, trying to come to an agreement on a base price per pound for the crab the fisherman haul in.
At the end of the day, there was no agreement.
Bernie Lindley, president of the Brookings Fishermen Marketing Association, said port representatives were not happy with the price that was offered.
"We were offered less than the amount we settled on last year," he said.
"We don't want to take a step in the wrong direction. We don't want to go backward and that's where we're at."
Year after year, this scenario is played out in fishing ports at crab season. Naturally, the fishermen want a good price for their catch. Crab fishing is a gruelling, dangerous job. The fishermen want to be well compensated for their labor.
The price paid per pound almost always increases as the season progresses, but the crab population usually begins to dwindle as the weeks go by.
If the base price is too low, the fishermen feel they will be cheated out of being well-paid for their biggest loads, which are generally caught at the beginning of the season.
On the other hand, the crab buyers are businessmen. Naturally they will try to pay the lowest price they can for the crab to maximize their profit.
So begins the annual fishermen-buyer stand-off. The buyers need the fishermen and the fishermen need the buyers. And until they can come to an agreement, the boats remain tied to the dock.