Photo by Zed Blue - The crew of F/V Robin Blue shows off their catch.
Crabs are no longer too small according to the latest Washington Department Fish and Wildlife testing conducted earlier this week, but the season will still remain closed.
"While recent test results indicate that Washington's coastal crab have met the minimum meat recovery level, crab in sections of the Oregon and northern California coasts have not," according to the WDFW press release. "Washington shellfish managers agreed to extend the delay of the state's coastal fishery until Dec. 31."
This is a big hit to local economies where now roughly four weeks of the season will be lost to the closure. Local fisherman are feeling the pain with some commenting on facebook, "there goes our christmas." Each week of the closure amounts to thousands of dollars lost for the boats according to several deckhands the we have spoken with.
Speaking with Dean Antich at South Bend Products a cannery located in South Bend about the delay he stated, "its affecting quite a few jobs here because there isn't a lot of work, but we're expecting to start Jan. 1. The delays are quite common," he continued. "We would rather the crabs be in a good quality than undersized."
Dean also expressed to the Herald that our previous information attained was inaccurate and misleading. He expressed that it is common for the crab seasons to be delayed, but typically does not really affect revenue.
He continued, "crabbing is fished all the way to Sept. 15, but up to 75% of crab is harvested in the first few weeks. Not many boats fish the entire season."
We were able to reach out to the F/V Robin Blue who crabs out of Westport and talked about the season delay. "The delay does affect the fleet in a couple of ways," said Capt. Zed Blue. "First we prefer to see the season staggered because it helps the sellers have a better market. When the season is opened at once and canneries are gushed with millions pounds of crab it results in a lower price for us. It being staggered also helps canneries process because they are often unfortunately hindered by labor shortages and instead of having to process a large amount of crab at once they can process a steady stream."
He continued, "secondly, we have the loss of the holiday market. We really like to see crab as a part of holiday traditions in the domestic markets. And if it isn't readily available customers may just forget about if for the next year."
When asked how the delay affects crew he stated, "for guys that budgeted really well it shouldn't much, but for guys that budgeted for the start to be on time Dec. 1. They will have problems paying their mortgages or giving their children christmas. It can be hard."
Beyond the delay Capt. Blue and the F/V Robin Blue are optimistic the season will be good. He mentioned to us that luckily this year the Chinese New Year falls in February and dungeness crab is a staple of their holiday meals. He stated, "the Asian market can make up to about 30% purchased and can be upwards of 70% of the value of the market."
Capt. Blue tells us that he anticipates the season to open around Jan. 20, but no officially word has been given. The state still has to negotiate with the tribal fishery on their head start. Both the fleet and canneries are excited for the season and ready to get back to work. We plan to monitor the season and speak with the F/V Robin Blue at the height of the season to discuss how the fishery is and get a further update on its state.