Silver salmon buyer coming to Kuskokwim Bay

Silver salmon fills the bottom of a boat during a subsistence opening in August 2016 near Bethel. (Photo: Katie Basile / KYUK)

It looks like there will be a commercial fishery for silver salmon on the Kuskokwim coast this year. A buyer is coming to Kuskokwim Bay next month with his floating processor vessel, Akutan. It’s 180 feet long, can process up to 100-gross-weight pounds of salmon a day. That’s 100,000 pounds of salmon. The ship will anchor in either Eek or Quinhagak. Its owner, Larry Lang, is looking for locals to buy cohos from.

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Larry Lang and the Akutan have fished everywhere. They spent years in Southeast, processing pinks and moneyfish. They’re currently in Bristol Bay, processing sockeye with fishermen out of Homer. Together with his wife and son, Lang is the owner of Klawock Oceanside, a family-run processing plant. He’s never worked on the Kuskokwim Bay, but when he looks at the area he sees opportunity.

“We know we’d have everybody’s attention,” Lang said. “The coho price, I think, is going to be good this year.”

The Akutan’s arrival may come as a relief to some YK Delta communities. When the Coastal Villages Region Fund’s Platinum Plant abruptly closed last year, fishermen in the villages were left without a buyer.

Lang doesn’t know what he’ll pay fishermen for silver salmon. He says it depends on the market, but he does know that he’ll pay by the pound.

“We intend to pay cash, whatever that price is,” Lang said. “And I think we’ll know what the price is in the next 10 days to two weeks.”

Lang originally planned to fish the Kuskokwim in partnership with Pacific Harvest Seafood, a company that planned to distribute fresh silvers to buyers across the country. Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game confirmed that the company dropped out, and that Klawock Oceanside is the only registered buyer for the season.

For his part, Lang said that he and the Akutan have four companies on the line as potential buyers. He’s hiring a tender in the next few weeks and sailing to the Kuskokwim Bay in the second or third week of August, at the latest.

Lang plans to anchor the Akutan in Eek or Quinhagak. He has already hired locals in Quinhagak to scout locations, and plans for the tender to shuttle back and forth between those two communities. Fishermen from villages upriver will have to travel to them, but if they can get there, Lang and his crew will be more than happy to take silvers off their hands.

“If those guys up above want to bring fish to us, we’ll take them,” Lang said. “It’s no problem at all. Anyone who has fish, we’ll take the fish – not a question.”

Lang could also be hiring locally for several positions on the company’s tender, although he’s bringing his own processing crew for the Akutan.