Traffic picking up

Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Crabbing lockout ends, meaning more competition

Instead of hearts and flowers, local crab fishermen got new competition for Valentine's Day.

The number of fishermen hunting for North Coast crabs picked up Tuesday with the end of the lockout that prevented crabbers from fishing the North Coast if they had fished elsewhere before the season opened here.

In a delayed season, like this year, crews that wait to crab until the North Coast opens get exclusive rights to the Dungeness from Point Arena to the Oregon border - temporarily.

A "steady stream of boats" floated past Point Arena heading north

over the weekend, said Pete Kalvass, a DFG senior marine biologist.

"I had quite a few phone calls of guys confirming when they can

start" laying pots, Kalvass said. The lockout ended at 12:01 a.m.

Tuesday.

Kalvass said he saw "lots of pots" being loaded onto flat-bed trucks

in Bodega Bay last week. Fishermen could be putting the pots away for

the season, but it's more likely they're heading north to crab, Kalvass

said.

A handful of locally based vessels whose crews chose to fish outside

the region are coming back to town now that the lockout is ending, said

Crescent City Harbormaster Richard Young.

When the Northern California season was delayed in 2005andndash;2006, most

crabbers preferred to wait for the season to open, Kalvass said. Data

from the 2008andndash;09 season (a non-delayed season) show the vast majority of

North Coast crabbers only fish in the North Coast regions.

The crab catch has slowed down, predictable in a fishery where the majority of crabs are caught in the first few weeks.

The fishing vessel Tassinge of Kodiak, Alaska, unloaded about 27,000

pounds of crab Wednesday - 60,000 pounds less than what it brought in

earlier this season, said Next Seafood dock worker Kevin Corbett, who

unloaded the vessel's crab each time.

"Weather has become a factor and production is slower due to the

weather," said Rick Harris, plant manager for Pacific Choice Seafood in

Eureka. "There seems to be a charge of boats from the southern fishery

that have come north, so we will have to see what effect that additional

effort may bring."

Harris said the price is holding steady at $3.30 a pound, and he was

hoping the frozen market holds up and isn't saturated by demand. Price

and production are both twice that of last year, he said.

"What's unusual this year is the high price of crab and I think it's

driven by the Chinese market," Young said. "Because there's nothing in

the U.S. market that would cause it to be a high year."

From 2009 to 2011, the amount of live Dungeness crab California

exported overseas increased from 25,000 pounds to 445,000 pounds,

according to NOAA figures cited in the North Coast Journal.

Harris said the demand for live crab slowed after the Chinese New Year.

Regardless of what's driving up prices, they make for happy fishermen.

"The boats are pretty happy," Young said. "I don't think the volume is very high but the price is good."

Reach Adam Spencer at aspencer@triplicate.com .

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The Del Norte Triplicate
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