Jayati Ramakrishnan

Although Oregon’s crab season has been delayed indefinitely, many Brookings commercial fishermen on Tuesday continued preparing for the start of the season — whenever that may be.

The season — which traditionally begins Dec. 1 — has been postponed due to elevated levels of the shellfish toxin Domoic acid found in crab off the coast of Garibaldi, a northern Oregon port.

However, the season will open Thursday in and around Crescent City.

“Some boats are fishing in California,” Brookings fisherman Willy Goergen, captain of the Catalyst fishing vessel, said Tuesday. “My crew’s on the gear pile, switching out pots and changing tags over, ropes — we’re going to have to fish a different area than we anticipated.”

The California crab season is limited to the ocean from Crescent City to just north of Eureka. Some Brookings fishermen — those who have California permits — will go fishing over the border, but others will wait until the Oregon season opens.

“There’s probably about 10 boats going,” said Mike Ryder of Hallmark Fisheries. “Other boats are prepped and ready, but there’s nothing they can really do except wait (until the season starts).”

Bernie Lindley, captain of the Sea Jay fishing vessel, said the earliest the season could start would be Dec. 15.

“They have to announce by the 7th — they have to give us five days’ lead time before the pre-soak,” Lindley said.

Lindley, who will not be fishing in California, said many of the people he’s talked to are disappointed the season was delayed.

“Most of the guys are nervous because they want to make a paycheck and don’t have one,” he said.

Last year’s season was slow — after starting in January, a month late, many fishermen had disappointing seasons, and were done by March.

Lindley said Oregon prices have not been negotiated yet, and he doesn’t know what the California prices are. Last year’s starting price for crab was $2.90 per pound, but the price usually increases as the season goes on. In the past 10 years, the port has averaged about 2 billion pounds of crab per year, and about 15 crab per pot.

He added that because the contaminated crab was found in Garibaldi — in northern Oregon — many Brookings fishermen felt their season shouldn’t have been postponed.

“We were surprised they decided to postpone the whole state’s season,” Lindley said. “The justification was that they said Domoic acid levels were on the rise, but lots of Brookings fishermen felt the whole state shouldn’t be closed — there should have been some boundary drawn around the middle of the state or around Port Orford.”

But Lindley said Port Orford fishermen didn’t like the idea of having a boundary drawn near their harbor.

“What it boils down to is, it makes sense for a line to be drawn, but nobody can agree on where,” Lindley said.

Lindley said Brookings fishermen don’t expect this season to bring in large quantities of crab, but the season may be successful in other ways, based on a pre-season quality test by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“As far as the quality, we expect it to be good — super good crab with a good meat fill-out,” he said.

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