Local commercial Dungeness crab fishermen return to their trade today but will receive 25 cents per pound less for their catch than when they started the season earlier this month.
Following a meeting on Monday, crabbers in Brookings, Crescent City, Trinidad, Eureka and Fort Bragg agreed to resume fishing on Tuesday, said Rick Shepherd, president of the Del Norte Fisherman’s Marketing Association. Seafood buyers are now paying fishermen $2.50 per pound, Shepherd said.
“We’re trying to hold that $2.75, but we don’t know how long we’d have to sit to do it,” he said. “There’s not much else we can do.”
When crabbers began pulling their gear on Feb. 5, seafood buyers had been paying them $2.75 per pound for their catch. But with Oregon crustaceans needing to be eviscerated or destroyed due to unsafe levels of domoic acid, it creates complications for crabbers south of the state line, according to Randy Smith, captain of the fishing vessel Mistasea and a member of the Del Norte Fisherman’s Marketing Association.
Smith noted crab this year aren’t in very good shape and fishing for them drops off quickly every year.
“We really don’t have a choice,” he said. “We need to get going.”
North Coast fishermen took a break from fishing over the weekend to give the seafood buyers a chance to reduce the amount of crab they had received, Smith said.
“We assumed we were going back at $2.75 and it’s just not going to happen now with the domoic problems,” he said.
After tests Wednesday showed unsafe levels of domoic acid in crab, the Oregon Department of Agriculture ordered fishermen to eviscerate or destroy any of the crustaceans caught since Feb. 13, the Curry Coastal Pilot reported Saturday. There is also a recall on all live or whole-cooked crab caught in Oregon since Feb. 13, the Pilot reported.
“That leaves a lot of buyers out,” Smith said. “They can’t sell live crab anymore. They have to eviscerate them. It changes the dynamics a lot.”
Crescent City crabbers began pulling their gear on Feb. 5, roughly three weeks after the California Department of Fish and Wildlife officially opened the commercial Dungeness season on Jan. 15. Normally starting Dec. 1, the Department of Fish and Wildlife delayed the season three times due to quality testing.
But even though the season was officially open on Jan. 15, Crescent City fishermen remained out of the water because the crab quality was still questionable and a price hadn’t been decided on at that point.
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