Fish Buyer's Prospects Increasingly Underwater

Aug 3, 2017

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

The plight of the company that wanted to come to the Kuskokwim to buy fish appears to have worsened. 

Earlier this week, seafood processor Larry Lang announced that his floating processor, the "Akutan," wasn't going to make it to the Kuskokwim coast to process silver salmon because the bank was refusing to finance his operation. Now Lang's situation has become more complicated. 

Fourteen fishermen from Houston, Texas have managed to fly home from Alaska, saying that they were "trapped" in Alaska on the Akutan, which is owned by Lang’s company, Klawock Oceanside. In an interview with Houston’s ABC News affiliate, contractor Darlene Drummer said that Lang’s company promised her $15,000 for her work on the vessel, but still hasn’t paid her or any of the other workers.

Drummer further claimed that the workers ran out of food and fresh water before they were able to fly back to Houston. Larry Lang denied this and said that Drummer and the other workers he hired just didn’t understand how difficult the job was going to be.

"Any boat up there, even tenders, you tell your crews, 'You’re not at home anymore and you can’t take a twenty-minute shower,'" Lang said.

"Some people have a hard time understanding that and think that showers go on forever," he added. "And usually, we have no problem."

Lang said that the crew always had food and fresh water, although they were not allowed to leave the processor and go on shore for the duration of their employment. Lang did concede that Drummer and the other workers on the processing vessel had not been paid.

"The only people that we can hire are people that are desperate enough for the money to come do it," said Lang about his business. "And when we get people desperate for money, when the time comes, they want their money. And we didn’t do [the job]. And that’s the crux of the problem right there."

According to Lang, Klawock Oceanside’s fishing ventures started to fall apart when they ran into trouble with their bank, Alaska Growth Capital, which is currently in negotiations to repossess the company’s boat. Lang says that he regrets that he won’t be able to do business here in the Delta.

"They’re nice people. My god, they’re great people," said Lang.

Now back in Houston, Darlene Drummer says that she and the other workers plan to look for legal help. Lang said that they probably would not be paid for at least another month.