Crab Season Remains Shut Down

Bodega Bay is one of the communities being affected by the emergency closure of Dungeness crab fishing. (CHRIS COCOLES)
Bodega Bay is one of the communities being affected by the emergency closure of Dungeness crab fishing. (CHRIS COCOLES)

I remember a few weeks after I moved back to California in 2009 I was invited up to my friends’  getaway home in Bodega Bay on Thanksgiving weekend. My dog and I headed up for a weekend of fun. One of the highlights was driving down to the marina and picking up some fresh crab right from the tank a couple weeks after the season began. We had a feast to remember that night.

So now with the Dungeness crab season continued to be delayed after an emergency closure last month, I can only imagine things are not going well along the California coast for those who rely on this lucrative industry to make a living.

As the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat  reports, there is no end in sight, even when state government officials intervened at a meeting last week:

After a dismal salmon harvest and the loss of the Thanksgiving crab market, a crab season that’s delayed past Christmas would cause “near collapse of the commercial crab fishery — and today is December 3,” state Sen. Mike McGuire said as he opened a hearing in Santa Rosa on the state of California’s rock and Dungeness crab fishery.

“All of us are hoping for the best,” said McGuire, chairman of the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, “but we also need to start preparing for the worst-case scenario.”

More than 150 people, most of them commercial or sport fishermen, attended the more than three-hour hearing that drew representatives from state health, food safety, environmental health and wildlife agencies and was led by McGuire and state Assemblyman Jim Wood, both Healdsburg Democrats. Wood is vice chairman of the joint committee.

Stakeholder representatives were invited, too, to speak to the impact of the state’s move last month to delay the openings of sport and commercial crabbing from Santa Barbara to the Oregon border. An unprecedented algal bloom along the Pacific Coast has produced unparalleled levels of a potentially fatal neurotoxin affecting a wide variety of wildlife, including fish, shellfish, seabirds and marine mammals like sea lions and whales. No humans have become ill.

Topics included the manner and timing for the fisheries to reopen once testing is clean for two straight weeks, the cascading financial impact of the closure and the science behind the algal bloom. But the most troubling subject for many was the challenge of rebuilding consumer confidence once crab can again be harvested and creating new markets to offset current losses.

“We need people to buy crab,” said Joe Caito, president of Sausalito-based Caito Fisheries.