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Another delay for crabs

A price dispute in San Francisco kept the Dungeness crab fleet from fishing this week, affecting local food processors in Crescent City.

Meanwhile, the Northern California commercial crab season is likely to be delayed again based on crab tests released Friday.

Crabs tested Thursday from the Crescent City area came in at 22.1 percent meat mass — projected not to be fat enough by the currently scheduled Dec. 16 opener.

Pete Kalvass, senior marine biologist with California Department of Fish and Game, the department’s lead expert on the Dungeness crab fishery, said the season will probably be delayed to at least Dec. 31.

“There is a strong likelihood of a delay and the director will make that decision early next week,” Kalvass said.

Tri-State testing protocols require tests to show crab at 25 percent meat mass in Northern California before opening the commercial season.

Crabs tested in nearby areas were similary thin on meat: Brookings (22.1), Trinidad (22.1), and Eureka (22.7).

Meanwhile, Central California fishermen were staying in the harbor this week after hearing that fish brokers wanted to cut the price of fresh crab from $3 per pound to $1.80.

Buyers say the demand for Dungeness has dropped since Thanksgiving, leading to steep drops in retail prices.

The workers at Crescent City’s only fish processor, Albers Seafood, feel the effects of the Dungeness crab price dispute.

Brigg Lindsey, general manager of Albers Seafood Crescent City branch, said the plant is just operating a “skeleton crew” without any product coming in.

“Everyone is just sitting at home, waiting until we get more crab in,” Lindsey said.  “Right now it’s just down-time when they could be making money for Christmas.”

Lindsey wasn’t too concerned over the price dispute though, since it’s fairly common to the trade. Last year, a price standoff delayed fishing for weeks.

“It will work itself out. It always does,” Lindsey said.

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