Commercial crab fishermen are reporting lackluster harvests two days into the season, with some calling it the worst they have seen in 30 years.
“We’re seeing a tenth of what we got last year,” Bernie Lindley, fishermen and boat owner, said Tuesday. “It’s not enough to pay the bills.”
Last year, Brookings had a record year in crab landings, with the port leading the state with more than 5 million pounds. Crab harvests are cyclical, with harvests fluctuating from year to year.
Hugh Link, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, said he still had not heard from fishermen in other ports on what their harvests were looking like.
Lindley said many fishermen thought this year’s harvest would be similar to last year’s, perhaps not as much, but still more than they’ve seen so far.
“There are guys on their radios saying its the worst season they’ve seen in 30 years. People are are comparing it to some of the bad years we had in the 1970s,” Lindley said.
Fishermen in Oregon agreed to an opening price of $2.65, but if there are low harvests this year, it could put upward pressure on the price of crab.
A smaller harvest this year could also have ripple effects in the local economy. Less crab caught means less money in fishermen’s pockets. Lindley says if the season stays like it has started, he won’t make any improvements he had planned for his boat or purchase any big ticket items.
The majority of crab is caught during the first two weeks of the season, with fishermen hurrying out to sea to set crab pots and harvesting the crabs. Last year, Brookings fishermen caught 2.3 million pounds of crab during the first month of the commercial season, nearly half of what was caught during the entire season.
In Crescent City, fishermen are also reporting smaller harvests. Crescent City regularly leads California in crab harvests.
“It’s wages; not so much more than that,” is how one commercial fishermen has described the season so far.
Rick Harris, who oversees all of the processing on the West Coast for Pacific Seafood, which handles a majority of West Coast Dungeness, says hardly any boats have delivered yet.
“There are not a lot of crabs around. People are having trouble finding them if they’re out there at all,” Harris said.
Nine million pounds were landed in Crescent City last year, and 7.5 million pounds were landed in 2011-2012 season.
“It’s pretty skinny so far, so we’ll see how it goes in the next day or two,” Harris said.