Crab season delayed; poor test results push Dungeness crab commercial opening to Dec. 16 at the earliest

Kaci Poor and Luke Ramseth

Times-Standard

Poor test results mean a delayed commercial crab season for local fishermen in Humboldt, Mendocino and Del Norte counties that won’t start until at least Dec. 16.

According to a notification from Department of Fish and Game director Charlton Bonham, poor crab meat-to-size ratios in recent tests indicate that crabs will not be ready for harvest on Dec. 1, the original opening date for the season.

Crab fisherman Aaron Newman, Humboldt Fisherman’s Marketing Association president, said he is viewing the decision as a positive.

"It just means we have to sit tight and wait for the crabs to get bigger," he said. "There have been quality tests indicating that the crabs are way under marketable standards right now. We just need to wait till the numbers get up there." Crabs must have a ratio of 25 percent meat recovery to the gross weight of the crab in order to meet harvesting standards.

In Eureka and Crescent City, crab tests showed an average meat recovery of 15.5 percent during the first round of testing in late October. The results improved slightly to 16.1 percent in Crescent City and 16.7 percent in Eureka by the first week of November, but not enough to prevent a delay in the commercial season. Poor results are also causing a delay for fishermen in Oregon and Washington.

DFG environmental scientist Pete Kalvass said a third round of testing is expected to be done in two weeks, at which point, managers will determine if the season should open Dec. 16 or be further delayed. Another option is separate opening dates, depending on individual test results seen in different areas.

Kalvass said local commercial fishermen shouldn’t hold their breath for better results from the next round of testing.

"It’s a high probability the season is going to be delayed beyond those two weeks," he said.

A number of factors, including competition for food, can contribute to low ratios seen along the North Coast, Kalvass said. Last season, the opening date was pushed back to Jan. 16. Kalvass said that doesn’t mean it will be a problem next year.

"We aren’t seeing a trend on this," Kalvass said. "At least not yet."

Kaci Poor can be reached at 441-0504 or kpoor@times-standard.com.

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