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Crabbing On Hold As Price Negotiations Continue

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) recently gave the green light for the commercial Dungeness Crab season to start on December 16th. However crab fishermen are still on hold as they have not yet reached an agreed upon price per pound for the crab.

If you look at the Newport Bayfront you will see the crab fleet loaded with stacked crab pots ready to head out into the ocean. The fishermen usually head out three days prior to the opening of the fishery on what is known as "Dump Day" a 73-hour soak to set their crab pots so that they call pull them on opening day and bring in their Dungeness bounty.

According to local fishermen Michael Rutherford who owns 4 fishing vessels here on the coast, there has not been much negotiations regarding price at this time. The marketing associations up and down the coast have been working with the processors to come to an agreed upon price for the crab.

As a rule the fishermen won't head out to set pots until an agreed upon price is reached. "We run into this every year, trying to get what we (the fishermen) feel is a fair price as far as what they (the processors) want to pay, and what they feel is a fair price." He added that fishermen start preparing for the season up to a month ahead of time getting the vessels and gear ready to go.

This is the first year that the commercial Dungeness Crab season has been able to start before Christmas in the last several years. The industry has faced strikes, low meal fill or soft shell crab, and domoic acid issues. The state wants to open the season on the best day to ensure good quality crab is being brought to the dock.

The opening day is usually set to start December 1, however it has been a long time since that has been the actual opening date. Commercial Dungeness crab is Oregon’s most valuable fishery. The 2019 season opening was delayed to Dec. 31 and still brought in the second highest ex-vessel value ever ($72.7 million) with just under 20 million pounds landed, about 12 percent above the 10-year average.

Weather is another issue that the crab fishermen face. The National Weather Service reports there are several Pacific frontal systems are moving through this week. Each of these fronts will have gusty to occasionally strong winds and will be followed by a series of very high and very steep westerly swells. One of those swells 16-20 feet at 16 seconds is moving through Tuesday into Wednesday morning.

A West to northwest swell 18 to 21 feet at 18 seconds, with surf heights peaking at 24-28 feet. Even though there may be a brief break late this week, it won't stop there as models show another strong front arriving on the weekend. When a price is reached and fishermen are ready to go we will be working again this year with Sharon Biddinger, to bring you the annual crab blessing on 97.5 KSHL. Watch for the live blessing on the Newport Annual Crab Blessing Facebook page.

Photo Courtesy of Christian Flores Muños

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