Processing of Dungeness crab was in full swing Friday as workers at Eureka Fisheries took buckets of the squirming delicacies from arriving boats and dumped them into vats of boiling water.

Its amazing process, said Kathy Lindley, spokeswoman for Eureka Fisheries Inc., which operates at the Port of Brookings Harbor along with two other fish processing companies.

The workers have had their hands full since Wednesday, when seafood buyer Pacific Choice and commercial fishermen up and down the West Coast agreed on $1.60 as the price per pound for the crab.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, fishermen left the port rushing to pick up their pots, which had been in the water for nearly a week.

Since then, the results have been hit and miss, Lindley said.

Some fishermen have been pulling up a dozen or so in each pot, while other have nothing, she said. Some are catching crabs in areas where there usually is none.

The season official began on Dec. 1. But a price wasnt agreed on until six days later.

Officials said it is too early to tell just how the season will turn out, but the next few days should provide some indication.

Meanwhile, workers at Eureka Fisheries, which specializes in whole crab, were hustling to cook and ship boxes of fresh crab to points everywhere.

Once the live crab are transferred from arriving boats, the plastic bins are transported by forklift one at a time to a sorting station. Workers pick out the damaged or deformed crab and put them aside to be processed as meat only.

The whole crabs are cooked in boiling salt water for about 25 minutes. They are then placed in cold tap water so they are close to the same temperature as the ice they will be packed in, said Jerry Ellis, assistant plant manager at Eureka Fisheries.

The crab are taken to a building next door where workers put them through a high pressure washing machine to get rid of the sand and mud.

The crab are finally packed into boxes full of crushed ice, weighed, and placed into a refrigeration truck for delivering to restaurants and markets throughout the nation.

From boiling to box, the process takes approximately three hours, Ellis said.