Crabs keep Masset plants busy

  • Jul. 28, 2003 7:00 p.m.

Masset’s two fish processing plants are running double shifts trying to keep up with this year’s phenomenal crab season.
Dave Hounsell, manager of CBI, says this is the busiest season he’s seen yet in the nine years he’s worked for the company. Right now, the plant has 86 people working. The most he’s ever seen before is 52 and the average number of workers at the plant is about 30.
The company has processed about 400,000 pounds since the July 8 crab season opening. He expects to be quite busy for another two or three weeks, and then see a drop in the number of crabs fishermen deliver. However, even with a drop in the crab catch, he expects to stay busy because the coho season will open soon.
CBI freezes all its crab, which is labour intensive because employees have to individually rubber band and bag each crab, says Mr. Hounsell. However, freezing gives the company more flexibility by allowing it to store crab for sale when the market isn’t flooded. CBI sells crab to the North American market, mainly in the US.
“It’s good to see all the islands fishermen supporting local plants and providing employment,” says Mr. Hounsell.
Andy Erasmus, president of Omega, agrees this is a great season-the best he’s seen since the plant opened eight years ago.
“This could be a record year. We’ve done as much so far as we did all of last year,” says Mr. Erasmus.
So far Omega has processed about 500,000 pounds of crab. The plant is open 24 hours a day to deal with all the crab, with 100 employees on the payroll. The crab is sold fresh and frozen to markets throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Omega will begin processing salmon when the coho season opens, and they are beginning a new venture processing dogfish for the European and Asian markets. The dogfish are caught at the south end of the islands, so Omega has expanded its operations with an off loading station on the dock at Skidegate Landing.
Mr. Erasmus estimates that crab fishers will earn about $2 million for every million pounds of crab they catch.