Photo taken from video submitted by Bernie Lindley A crew member of the Seajay, a commercial fishing vessel in Brookings, stacks pots during last year’s crab season.
The commercial season for Dungeness crab in Oregon has been delayed until at least Dec. 16 after sample testing of crab showed low meat content. However, some commercial fishermen can head just over the border into California, where the season is set to begin Sunday.
That is, if fishermen and crab buyers in California can agree to a price on crab.
Meanwhile, for individuals wishing to fish for crab recreationally, the sport fishing season in Oregon begins on Sunday.
With around 50 percent of Brookings’ commercial fishermen holding both Oregon and California licenses, many are waiting to set crab pots south of the 42nd parallel that divides Oregon and California.
Fishermen are allowed to set pots in the water in the days leading up to the opening of the season.
Oregon’s season was delayed after test catches along the central and northern Oregon Coast showed crab with meat content that fell short of the required 25 percent.
However, in Brookings, and other ports on the south coast, test catches showed crab did meet the 25 percent criteria.
Troy Buell, state fishery management program leader with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said there would be more tests out of Newport and Astoria next week as weather allowed and that if crabs still did not meet standards, it could delay the opening further. Last year, crab fishing season was delayed until Dec. 30, because of crab that did not meet the crab-to-meat ratio. Crab season traditionally begins on Dec. 1.
Fisheries managers look to have a certain amount of meat in crab before opening fishing to ensure that crab have enough time to fill with meat before large-scale harvesting begins.
Bernie Lindley , president of the Brookings Fishermen’s Marketing Association and a boat owner, said fishers could delay in California because of ongoing negotiations between fishermen there and crab buyers over the price of crab. Lindley said Oregon fishermen will negotiate their prices for crab next week.
Brookings harvested the most crab of any port in Oregon last year — more than 5 million pounds. It was the first time Brookings led ports in the amount harvested in the last 10 years. Approximately 18.2 million pounds of crab landed in Oregon ports last year, continuing an upward trend of crab harvests in the state the last 15 years.
For 50 years, from 1948 until about 1998, 10-year averages for crab caught was around 10 million pounds, but the last 15 years, 10-year averages have doubled to around 20 million pounds. Lindley says this shows that stocks of crab are well and healthy.
California is implementing limits on the amount of crab pots fishermen can use for the first time this year, something that Oregon implemented in 2006 and Washington in 1999.
Since pot limits were imposed in Oregon, the amount of pots declared by fishermen has dropped to 113,300 pots, from a high of 200,000 pots in the early 2000s.