Dungeness Crab Season is Finally Underway

The crab fishery was delayed more than 7 weeks because of size concerns followed by coastal storms.

Posted: Jan 24, 2018 12:54 PM

NEWSPORT, Ore. -- Oregon's crabbers are finally able to harvest Dungeness crab.  This week, crabbing boats headed out more than seven weeks later than anticipated.  The target start date was December 1st.  

This season's opening was delayed because the testing of crabs showed some were low in meat yield.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife works with the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission to collect crabs from the six major crabbing ports and then test them for quality.   ODFW and the Oregon Deparmtent of Agiculture say "the goal is 23 or 25 percent meat recovery depending on the area, or 9-10 ox. of crab meat for a crab weighing 2.5 pounds."  Once the crabs were large enough, the season was delayed even more becuase of a failure to achieve a negotiated opening price and intense coastal storms.  

The ODA and ODFW says "Dungeness crab have been harvested commercially along the Pacific Coast since the late 1800s. Current regulations allow only male crabs larger than 6 ¼ inches across the back of the shell to be taken. This protects the female and undersized male crabs which constitute the breeding population and produce the next generation of crab to be harvested in about four years, ensuring the sustainability of the overall stock and the industry. This regulatory approach is working. Preliminary results from a NOAA study show that the population of legal-size males appears to be stable to increasing on the West Coast. Harvest rates are also stable to increasing. Last season’s ex-vessel value (or average price) set a record of $62.7 million, with landings totaling 20 million pounds, 22 percent above the 10-year average."

with tens of milions of dollars tied to the crab harvest, Oregon's coastal economy is certainly dependent on its success.  More than 300 fishing boats bring crab into Oregon each season.  

The fishery south of Cape Blanco is still closed because some crabs are aboe the domoic acid action level.    ODA oversees the collection and testing of shellfish samples.  They say "Crabs are sampled every two to foure weeks when toxins are above a certain level in razor clams or another indicator species.  If a single crab tests above the action level (20 parts per million for meat, 30 for viscera), the harvest are is closed and any crabs taken recently by the commercical industry are not sold to customers. (When viscera is above 30 ppm but meat is below 20 ppm, managers can sometimes order that crab be eviscerated rather than doing a full closure.) It takes two clean tests, taken at least seven days apart, for ODA and ODFW to reopen the harvest area."

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