Early reports of commercial landings of Dungeness crab in California this season indicate that Crescent City crab fishermen alone will haul in more crab than the Central California ports combined.
Since Jan. 15 (Northern California's season opener) through mid-February, Crescent City's commercial crab fleet landed just under 6.6 million pounds of crab. About 6 million pounds were landed in the ports of San Francisco and Bodega Bay, from the Central Coast's Nov. 15 season opener through mid-February.
"Crescent City seemed to be one of the better ports, which is more in line with history. Crescent City is usually the top port," said Peter Kalvass, the senior environmental scientist who oversees the Dungeness crab fishery for California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The average price received by the Crescent City fleet was $2.52 per pound, for a total of $16.6 million, according to preliminary data on the first few weeks of the season.
The landings demonstrate a local fishery much healthier than a few years ago. In 2011, Crescent City's crab fleet landed about 1.8 million pounds of crab for a value of $4.7 million, while in 2010 there were over 3.8 million pounds worth $7.7 million.
In Eureka this season, 3.2 million pounds of crab were landed for a value of $8.2 million from Jan. 15 through mid-February, according to the state's preliminary data.
For the first few weeks in Trinidad, there were 694,000 pounds landed for a value of $1.7 million. Fort Bragg comes in last for the Northern management zone ports with 263,000 pounds for a value of $654,000.
Statewide, there was almost 17.6 million pounds of crab hauled in mid-February, a far cry from last year's record-setting 31.7 million pounds. Still, the data reported for this year so far is more in line with the average catch in the Northern Management Area for the past 10 years, which was 18.8 million pounds.
The vast majority of Crescent City crab, 5.7 million of 6.6 million pounds, were caught in the first two weeks of the season.
After those first couple weeks when most of the crabs are landed, larger vessels tend to bring all of their traps back to port first since their high fuel costs can quickly outnumber the value of catching a few more crabs here and there.
Randy Smith, a commercial fishermen and informal representative for the local crab fleet, pointed to the economic boost that the entire area receives from the crab industry.
"It's good for the town when the fleet does well," Smith said, adding that many new vehicles with plates from local dealerships that are seen around town at the dawn of crab season proves his point.