Fishermen and their crews were busy unloading crab pots Friday in anticipation of the Monday start to the commercial Dungeness season.
But whether crabbers will be fishing on Monday is uncertain.
“As far as I know there is no market price, at least an acceptable price, for the crab yet,” said Del Norte County Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen, owner of the fishing vessel Pollux. “The processors, or the buyers, are not confident with the quality in the crab fill out. We’re supposed to do another test for the processors but we have to wait until the season opens before we could do that.”
Crescent City’s commercial Dungeness crab season is scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. Monday with a 64-hour gear setting period starting Friday. California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham had delayed the season three times after crab quality test results in November and December indicated they were not ready for harvesting.
Jan. 15 is the latest the Department of Fish and Wildlife can delay the season due to quality testing, according to a CDFW press release.
Delaying the season due to quality issues isn’t unprecedented, CDFW Environmental Scientist Christy Juhasz said in a written statement. The last time quality issues delayed the season was in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, she said.
There was also some concern about domoic acid contamination. However the California Department of Public Health on Dec. 29 lifted an advisory applying for areas between the Klamath River and Oregon border. DPH recommended consumers remove the crab viscera and rinse the body cavity out prior to cooking or to boil or steam whole crabs to reduce the risk of domoic acid poisoning.
At the Crescent City Harbor on Friday, Henry Luerra, of the fishing vessel Sea Addler was preparing his crab pots. He said he has a 350-pot limit.
Luerra, who began fishing for crab with his father at age 12, said he got back into commercial fishing in Crescent City about a year ago.
“Hopefully it’s good,” he said. “It sounds like it’s going to be alright. The crab count looks really good.”
Johnathan Johansen, who works aboard the Keltie, a fishing vessel out of Fort Bragg, said he’s hoping to get out on the water as soon as possible but he also wants to harvest good quality crab.
“The consumer industry people are paying a lot of money,” he said. “If it’s soft shell or not full, everybody absolutely should wait to harvest to get a good product.”
According to Johansen, the Keltie, which has a 500-pot limit, has fished out of Crescent City about four or five times. Once the crab season is over, he said, he and his shipmates will start fishing for black cod and halibut in Alaska and other places on the West Coast.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, any vessel that landed crab from other ocean waters prior to the season opening in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties is prohibited from participating in the crab fishery for 30 days following the season opener.
In Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties that 30-day wait period ends Feb. 14, 2018.
Representatives of Pacific Choice Seafoods or Alber Seafood could not be reached on Friday.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.