Crab season opens Dec. 16

By Don Iler, Pilot staff writer December 06, 2013 09:38 pm

Oregon’s commercial crab season will open at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 16, after officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that test catches this week of crab out of Newport and Astoria showed the required amount of crab meat fill. 

This means that fishermen can be out on the water as early as Dec. 13 setting their gear. 

While price negotiations continue between northern California crab fishermen, whose season opened Dec. 1, fish buyers and representatives from Oregon’s five fishermen’s marketing associations will be headed to Newport next week to negotiate an opening day price. 

 Approximately 63 percent of active commercial crab permit holders participate in Oregon’s negotiation process through their participation in fishermen’s marketing associations according to Jerry Gardner, business development manager at the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The state-supervised process is exempt from federal anti-trust laws and sets the price of crab for the first day of the season, giving fishermen knowledge of how much they will get paid. Last year, the price set on the first day of the season was $2.30 a pound. 

Northern California fishermen have continued to refuse to fish, waiting for a better price offer from buyers.  Randy Smith, representative for the Crescent City crab fleet, said negotiations with buyers will be weighted heavily with the Oregon fleet. 

California does not have a collective negotiating structure like Oregon, and fishermen’s marketing associations negotiate price with individual fish buyers. So far California’s fish buyers have offered fishermen in northern California $2.50 a pound. 

Many boats at the Port of Brookings Harbor already have crab pots stacked on their decks and are ready to go for the season. Last year, Brookings landed the most crab of any port in Oregon — over 5 million pounds.

--— Wescom writer Adam Spencer contributed 

to this story.