The Crescent City Harbor District plans to start charging commercial crab fishermen rent to store their pots.
Harbor commissioners on Tuesday began the process of revising an ordinance addressing temporary storage of crab pots.
Proposed changes include giving crab fishermen renting a berth at the harbor a free 30 days before the season starts and after the season ends to store their pots in areas alongside D and E docks.
Following that time period, the harbor would charge a proposed monthly storage fee of $150 per month, or 20 cents per square foot, according to the amended ordinance. If approved, it would be the first time the harbor has collected a rental fee for storing crab pots, Harbormaster Charlie Helms said.
“The way it is now, yes it’s free; this is the end of that,” Helms told harbor commissioners. “There’s no free storage except at the very beginning when they’re staging or at the end when they’re pulling (pots) out.”
Changing the temporary crab pot storage ordinance requires a public hearing as well as a 20-day public comment period, according to Deputy Harbormaster Lane Tavasci.
The harbor commission will hold a special meeting on Oct. 10 to discuss the issue.
According to Tavasci, most fishermen begin readying their pots for the Dungeness crab season about the middle of next month with some of the larger franchises coming into the harbor the first week of November. Last year the commercial crab season began Dec. 1.
The amended crab pot ordinance also includes establishing a lottery for assigning storage spaces. Fishermen with a current berthing permit are asked to enter their name into the lottery by noon Oct. 25. The district will hold a drawing Oct. 31 to assign spaces.
Following the lottery, fishermen may rent the leftover spaces on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the ordinance.
Commissioners also discussed a provision in the revised ordinance requiring crab pots be removed from the harbor within two weeks of the end of that tenant’s crabbing season.
“We have some crabbers decide we’re not going to fish anymore, they have to tell us ‘we’re through crabbing,’” Tavasci said. “From the time they tell us, they have two weeks to get it out.”
Although he acknowledged Tavasci wants to get the crab pots out of the storage areas as soon as possible, Commissioner Wes White was curious as to how many would actually inform the harbor district they’re through fishing for the season.
“It’s kind of nebulous because it’s up to the captain to say I’m done with crabbing season,” White said.
Helms said it would be better to have the ordinance refer to the official start and end to the crabbing season. He noted the proposed storage fee is less than other harbors in the state.
Commissioner Brian Stone encouraged harbor staff to begin enforcing its fee schedule, pointing out the port’s budget has a $498,000 deficit.
His colleague, board President Ron Phillips said the harbor wouldn’t make up that deficit “on the back of the fishermen.”
“I agree with you,” Stone said. “But we all have to pay our fair share.”
The Crescent City Harbor District meets 5:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at its offices, 101 Citizens Dock Road.