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About Coast river business journal. (Astoria, OR) 2006-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 12, 2020)
8 • February 2020
COAST RIVER buSINeSS JOurNaL
Clear skies prevailed at the Port of Ilwaco on Sunday, Feb. 2, however bouts
of bad weather through a majority of January has kept much of the fleet in
port. “They’ve only had 11 or 12 fishable days this month,” Shirley said.
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The Food Modernization Safety Act,
signed into law in 2011, has been among
the numerous changes for small seafood
processors along the coast.
“Food regulation is continually updat-
ing,” Antich said. “We are keen to that
and we’re trying to be proactive on those
In January, Washington raised the stan-
dard minimum wage from $12 to $13.50.
The impact was felt directly by seafood
processors that seek to hire low-wage
employees during the winter season.
“It had an impact for sure,” Antich said.
“Most of the entry-level cannery positions
were at $13, but are now getting $13.50.
Staff that was making $13.50 previously,
that have years of experience and know
what to do, are now worth more, so I gave
them a raise.”
The business currently employs more
than 100 minimum-wage workers, approx-
imately 55 in South Bend and 50 in Chi-
nook, Antich said.
The staff numbers fluctuate with the
fishing seasons. A poor salmon year in
2019 followed by a slow crab season so far
this season has gutted the staff, particularly
in Chinook, where 50 positions have been
Still, many staff, such as Hector
Medina, have remained loyal and returned
for families looking to earn money during
the slower winter months, when fewer sea-
sonal jobs are available.
“They’re loyal to the cannery,” Antich
said. “There’s really no jobs in north
Change is the only constant in
evolving processing industry
F/V Cutting Edge captain brian Cutting inspects
his catch as it’s offloaded Sunday, Feb. 2 at Ilwa-
co Landing. Cutting said the weather, tariffs and
coronavirus have all been hurdles to commercial
fishermen this season.
Medina, 45, has processed crab in Chi-
nook for the past 23 years.
“Consistency,” Medina said when asked
what makes a good crab shaker.
Seafood processing jobs can be a savior
Albacore tuna and Chinook salmon
were once the backbone of local canning
and processing industries lining the Colum-
bia, but change has been a constant.
“In this industry, five years ago were
the old days, 10 years ago were how things
used to be,” Antich said. “It was nothing to
have 100,000 pounds of fish and running
three trucks off the Columbia River or Wil-
lapa. In 2014, we hauled 30,000 pounds of
coho out of Nahcotta on the first day of the
fishery and it sustained. We bought mil-
lions of pounds of fish. This year we might
have had 10,000 pounds once. We’ve run
more fish in one day in the past than we’ve
ran the whole year last year.”
As certain fisheries have waxed and
waned, local processors have adjusted
“It’s significantly different than it was
five or 10 years ago,” Antich said. “Salmon
was the higher value 10 years ago, but
now Dungeness is probably 60% and
salmon is 20%.” Black cod has risen to