After the February council meeting harvesters talked about demand, price and weather – other key factors in the health of the industry. Japan’s weak economy and the world-wide availability of urchins have helped keep the price down.

Jim Wadsworth, once a buyer primarily of whole urchins, said he is buying a greater percentage of urchins for processing. He is getting hammered, he said, by Russian harvesters working the Kuril Islands just north of Japan. He used to sell one million pounds a year; now he lucky to send 3-400,000 pounds a year. “It’s still a lucrative business,” he said, “though uncertainty makes it hard to maintain a crew.”

Kristen Porter, fishing out of Cutler, talked about the tight market that only wants very good quality urchins and those (14 percent roe and above) have a cap of 90 cents per pound. He’s having difficulty getting that roe count and the golden roe color. This winter’s weather and short days make it hard to get in a full day’s fishing, he said. He has been out four times since Christmas.

Rob Odlin, Zone 2 diver, has gone out only 12 days since Christmas. He’s seen prices of $1.50 for high quality roe.

Bill Sutter, who’s harvested urchins since 1972-73, says he only goes out the “Green Week” around Christmas, when prices are high in anticipation for Japanese demand at New Year’s. “I go out only when quantity, quality and price are right,” he said, “and then I go scalloping.”