Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – The commercial Dungeness crab season won’t begin until mid-January, as insufficient meat levels have prevented a late December opening.
The North Coast area’s commercial crabbing was scheduled to begin Dec. 1 but crabs collected in Eureka, Trinidad and Crescent City failed to meet the 25 percent meat to total weight ratio that’s necessary for opening the season north of Point Arena.
Low meat levels also cancelled openings in mid-December and the end of the month.
Tests of crabs collected on Dec. 19 in the three northern areas showed 19.8 percent to 21.7 percent meat to weight ratios. The below-standard results struck a Dec. 31 opening and the season will begin on Jan. 15, as state rules don’t allow delays past that date.
There is a market shortage of Dungness crab, as meat-related delays have affected most of the West Coast.
Low meat levels persist in some areas of Washington and Oregon, and the two states together with Northern California are bound by an agreement to coordinate Dungeness opening times.
California’s central region south of Point Arena isn’t bound by the tri-state pact and its season opened on time in mid-November.
Crabbing in the central region has been spotty, however, and Dungeness crab is generally unavailable.
Season delays have become routine in recent years, due to low meat levels and opening price disagreements between fishermen and Pacific Group, which owns Pacific Choice Seafoods and other processing plants across the coast.
The presence of the algae-related domoic acid toxin, which significantly delayed the 2015 to 2016 season, has subsided in the northern area.
Tests for the toxin on crabs collected on Dec. 11 and 12 north of Fort Bragg and in Crescent City showed none of them exceeding safety levels.