Commercial crab season delayed again as fishermen seek better compensation – Times-Standard
Commercial Dungeness crab season is once again delayed in Humboldt County after a strike due to a low base price in crab per-pound. (Times-Standard file)
Commercial Dungeness crab season was set to open locally on Friday, but it appears the start date may be pushed back yet again.
On Wednesday, the Eureka crab shack Jenna Lee’s Seafood announced they were going on strike along with others in efforts to get a better base price for crabs this season.
“The situation with the crab and the weather has changed. Seems the fish companies can’t pay the fisherman a decent price so that they might make a living,” said Jenna Lee’s Seafood in a social media post Wednesday morning, “So we are on strike with all the others to help support a base price. Also the weather is marginal at best. We just can’t even guess at this time what will happen but feel it may not last long.”
A longtime Humboldt County fisherman who asked to be quoted off the record said that the issue stems from the offer from the seafood company ‘Pacific Seafood’ per-pound of crab. Citing that the company’s offer was 50-85 cents lower per-pound of crab in Humboldt County than in other locations up the California and Oregon coasts.
Pacific Seafood is vital for the crab fishers because of the large amount of crab they purchase. The fisherman called it “almost impossible to fish without them on board”, leaving the fishermen at the mercy of the company and the price that they set.
The offered price is still larger than the base price per-pound from last season, but last season was a bountiful year of crabs in Humboldt County so the sheer volume helped make up for the lesser price. The fisherman said that he closed the crab season early last year due to the lack of financial motivation to continue despite the high number of crabs.
It was not only the offer holding back crab fishing this weekend, the weather on the forecast isn’t ideal for crab fishermen with ocean swells and potential breaker waves on Friday and heading into the weekend. The added weather risk along with the underwhelming pay gave the fishermen motivation for the strike. The fisherman did wonder if there would be a strike at all if not for the inclement weather.
Even with these struggles, the fisherman pushes back on the notion of the strike, viewing it more so as price negotiations in effort to gain a fairer base price while also eliminating wording in the offer that opens the possibility of the price dropping lower based upon market conditions.
Last year there were over 80 million pounds of crabs caught on the coast, with this year’s total not expected to come near that total. The fisherman said he hoped for a higher base price to help equate the lesser number of crab in the area.
The fisherman, who has spent over a half-century crabbing, believes this to be as bad as he’s seen the industry, with this coming on the heels of a canceled salmon fishing season.
Regardless of how long the strike will last, it appears to be another weekend without commercial crab fishing in Humboldt County.
A voicemail left at Jenna Lee’s Seafood was unreturned by the Times-Standard’s print deadline. Pacific Seafood also did not return a request for comment by the Times-Standard’s print deadline.
This is now the third delay of the season after one in November due to low crab quality from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife postponing the season from starting Dec. 1, the second delay came in December due to a high number of humpback whales and an entanglement of a leatherback sea turtle in lost gear. The season was scheduled to open Jan. 5, at 12:01 a.m.
Dylan McNeill can be reached at 707-441-0526