|CRAB SEASON: A MATTER OF NEGOTIATION AND PATIENCE|
|November 29, 2001 11:00 pm|
The fishing boats in the Port of Brookings Harbor are stacked high with empty crab pots. A tiny black and brown dog with a spiked collar growls at dock visitors, then scampers away. The sound of laughter resonates across the water as crab fisherman gather on a nearby boat and joke amongst themselves. For now, all there is to do is wait.
Crab season officially starts today (Dec. 1). But as of late Friday, there was still no word from the "higher -ups" of an agreement on the price of crab. Word on the dock has it that crab fishermen originally asked for $1.65 a pound, but processors offered $1.40.
While the crabbers await a decision from leading processors, Mother Nature isn't making life any easier.
Just outside the harbor, huge brown waves crash against rocks and rip at the shore with angry foaming teeth. Two orange triangle flags whip in the wind outside the Coast Guard station, signaling a gale warning.
Friday afternoon, the Fish and Wildlife branch of the Oregon State Police conducted its regular pre-season "hold check."
The state sends an officer to check the holds of the crab boats to make sure no one is harvesting before the official start of the season.
The officer performed the checks rather light-handedly; he knew there were no crab in these boats. The weather hasn't permitted anyone to haul anything in.
Rod Kaiser of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the crab are ready to be harvested.
"Our pre-season checks showed the crabs with a very high quality meat content," he said. "Last year, we had to delay the season by two weeks because the crabs' shells were not hard yet. But this year is one of the better years as far as shell hardness and meat content."
Oregon law allows crabbers to put their pots in the ocean 64 hours before the season opens. That was 8 a.m. Wednesday and no fishing boats appeared to have left port yet.
Last season's 7.3 million pound harvest was sub-average in the number of pounds landed, but the fifth best season on record in dollars, officials said.
The fishery was worth $15 million to participating crabbers, which officials credited to a strong market and steady demand.
The average value of the crab landed was a record boat price of $2.12 a pound.