Crustacean frustration; DFG pushes dungeness commercial crab season to Dec. 31

Kaci Poor

The Times-Standard

Due to poor test results, the commercial crab season for local fishermen in Humboldt, Mendocino and Del Norte counties has been delayed to Dec. 31.

According to a notification from California 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. 16.

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, the recent crab tests showed an improvement in average meat recovery, up from 15.5 percent in both Crescent City and Eureka in late October to 22.1 percent in Crescent City and 22.7 percent in Eureka as of Dec. 6.

Those improvements were not enough to prevent a delay in the commercial season. According to the DFG notification, more tests may occur on Dec. 17 in the Trinidad area to determine whether additional delays beyond Dec. 31 will be required. Poor results are also causing a delay for fishermen in Oregon and Washington. This is the second time this year officials on the West Coast have delayed the start of the season. On Nov. 14, officials in California, Oregon and Washington decided to delay the start of the season until Dec. 16, due to poor test results. The original opening date was Dec. 1. DFG officials may not push back the opening date beyond Jan. 15.

In a previous interview with the Times-Standard, DFG environmental scientist Pete Kalvass said a number of factors, including competition for food, can contribute to low ratios seen along the North Coast. 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."

Crab fisherman Aaron Newman, Humboldt Fisherman’s Marketing Association president, said he doesn’t mind the delays. "It’s certainly not uncommon to have delays, in fact it’s actually very common," he said. "It’s just something you get used to. We want to make sure the quality is right before we start. Whenever that happens, we will be ready."

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

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