Crescent City still state’s crab king

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate July 24, 2013 05:35 pm

Davon Cleaver with LCZ Unloaders transfers a fresh catch of crab at Crescent City Harbor earlier in the season.
Davon Cleaver with LCZ Unloaders transfers a fresh catch of crab at Crescent City Harbor earlier in the season. Del Norte Triplicate file / Bryant Anderson
Local port once again lands the biggest Dungeness crab catch in all of California

Crescent City remains the top Dungeness crab producer in California. 

This season’s haul of Dungeness caught by commercial fishermen throughout California didn’t come close to last year’s record-setting total.

But northern ports, including Crescent City, actually landed more crabs this year and had one of the top six seasons on record for the North Coast.

Crab landings in the state’s Northern Management area (Crescent City, Eureka, Trinidad and Fort Bragg) amounted to 16,289,473 pounds through the end of May 2013, just over 3,500 pounds more than last year. Not much better, but just enough for more North Coast bragging rights. 

Including this season and last, there have only been six times where more than 16 million pounds of crab were landed in the Northern Management Area, according to state data going back to 1915.

Central Management Area ports, from Bodega Bay to San Francisco/Pacifica area, posted North Coast-like numbers last year with 15.6 million pounds of crab, which accounted for the record statewide season of 31.9 million pounds. The 2012–2013 season has only racked up 23.6 million pounds of crab.

Dungeness crabs landed in Crescent City this season account for more than 55 percent of the total Nor-Cal catch, and 38 percent of the total statewide catch — retaining Crescent City’s reputation as the top Dungeness port in California.

The 9,036,932 pounds of crab landed in Crescent City this season were valued at $24,164,204. Although there was 1.5 million pounds more of crab landed in Crescent City this season than last season, the value of the catch was actually $1 million better last year.  That’s because, the average price per pound statewide in California this year was $2.81, far below last season’s $3 per pound average, which racked up $95.5 million worth of sales to commercial fishing boats statewide. This season’s value statewide through May has been $66.4 million.

Although hundreds of thousands of pounds of crab continue to trickle in (the commercial season lasts through Aug. 14 on the North Coast this season to make up for the delayed opener), the vast majority of crabs are caught in the first few weeks of the season. In Crescent City, 6.2 million pounds of the 9 million total were landed in two weeks during January — the season opened Jan. 15.

The 2013-2014 Dungeness crab season will include a few firsts for the state and for Crescent City in particular.

Crescent City Harbor’s new and improved inner boat basin is scheduled to have the primary structural components of its new docks completed before the start of the crab season.

Statewide, this will be the first year that California commercial crab fishermen will be subject to a crab trap limit, prohibiting any commercial vessel from fishing with more than 500 pots. Vessels have been assigned to different tiers with maximum trap allocations ranging from 175 to 500 based on crab landings on record with the state from 2003 to 2008.

Some commercial crab fishermen think the pot limit will help de-clutter seas that currently become a season-opening minefield of crab pots, while others balk at the idea of any more regulations.

The pot limit should not interfere, however, with Crescent City’s reign as the port best described as king of Dungeness crab.

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