Soon, we will once again see those lights dotting the horizon over the Pacific Ocean, a sign that our crabbing fleet is back at it, and the ocean commercial Dungeness crab season is underway.
The season could have started as early as Dec. 1, but testing done by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife in late November showed the crabs were still undersized, so there was a two-week delay. A second round of testing in early December revealed the crabs still didn’t meet criteria, and the season was delayed for another two weeks.
But the third round of tests showed all areas have now exceeded meat recovery criteria, and ODFW gave the green light for the season to start on Dec. 31. Crabbers will be able to begin setting their gear on Saturday for a “pre-soak,” with the first pots being pulled on the 31st.
Commercial Dungeness crab is Oregon’s most valuable fishery, and the economic benefit attributed to that fishery for just our area alone is huge. According to ODFW’s website, Dungeness crabs have been landed commercially on the West Coast of the United States since 1848, when San Francisco fishermen began the fishery. And, since the fishery was established, Oregon has consistently been one of the largest producers of Dungeness crab overall. Two years ago, a record was set for the highest ex-vessel value, and last year saw the second highest ex-vessel value. Both of those crabbing seasons also got off to a late start, so this year’s delay doesn’t mean it can’t be another banner year.
We’re sure our fishermen are glad to be back at work after being kept waiting at the dock for the last few weeks. And they will certainly earn their pay, working in some of the most hazardous conditions the Pacific Ocean can throw at them.
Many of us get to enjoy the fruits of their labor without having to do anything more than go down to the docks, local fish markets or supermarkets. But we know it’s a dangerous profession, and so, once again, we pray for the safety of our crabbers — both at sea and in port as they offload their catch. And we wish them all the best for a bountiful harvest as the season gets underway.