Crab boats leave port as price dispute settled

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate December 12, 2013 09:07 am

Ending a 12-day strike that kept boats at port, Northern California Dungeness crab fishermen from Crescent City to Fort Bragg started setting crab traps Thursday morning after the North Coast fleet and seafood buyers agreed on an opening price of $2.65 per pound.

The opening price is lower than the $3 per pound that the North Coast fleet had been asking for but higher than the $2.50 price that was originally offered by seafood distributors.

The $2.65 price was reached Wednesday night through state-mediated negotiations between fishermen and buyers in Oregon. Seafood companies agreed to offer Northern California fishermen the same price to get the season started, according to Randy Smith, a representative for the crab fleet in Crescent City, which has far more Dungeness crab landings than any other port in California.

"It's too bad we didn't get closer to our three dollars, but we'll go make the best of it for now," Smith said. There is some disappointment among the fleet, he said, but he is "happy to go fishing."

Once Oregon fishery managers decided that Dungeness crab had enough meat content to start the season on Dec. 16, Northern California fishermen, whose season would have started Dec. 1 if not for the price dispute, recognized that their opening price likely would be determined by the negotiations mediated by the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.

"It is what it is. We really had no bearing," Smith said.