Commercial crab season off to stormy start

Oregon Coast

Few commercial boats were able to make it out to sea on Tuesday due to rough conditions

GARIBALDI, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon’s commercial Dungeness crab got off to a stormy start on Tuesday.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife pushed back the target opening date of Dec. 1 after tests in November showed crabs along the Oregon Coast hadn’t developed enough meat.

Despite the delay, this new season still started earlier than the 2018 season, which brought in one of the highest yields to date with 18.7 million pounds of Dungeness crab — a haul estimated to have contributed more than $150 million to Oregon’s economy.

Tim Novotny with the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission told KOIN 6 News an earlier start to the season means crabbers will start making much-needed paychecks once more.

“Even though the season got truncated the last couple of years we had very successful — if you look at it from an industry perspective — very successful seasons,” he said. “But from an individual perspective, it does put a lot of crunch on families and the fishermen who are waiting for those checks to start.”

Novotny said crabbing also fuels side businesses that rely on the fishing industry to survive.

“It is a really vital part of not just the coastal economy but the state economy as a whole,” he said.

generic dungeness crab bell buoy seaside 12042015_239036
FILE – An undated photo of Dungeness crab in Seaside, Oregon. (KOIN)

But Tuesday’s season opener presented some difficulties. Only a few of the larger vessels were able to make it out to open seas in the morning to begin pulling in pots due to rough conditions. Novotny said crabbers will now face a waiting game before they can bring any crabs back to port.

“Nature’s not playing by our rules right now, so a lot of the vessels — especially the smaller vessels — it’s just not ideal for them to be trying to cross bars, especially under these conditions,” he said.

Recreational crabbers inside the Tillamook Bay even reported rough and wet conditions.

“I think the bar crossing’s pretty extreme. Just being in the bay is pretty rough,” said recreational angler Steve Graves. “I wouldn’t want to be on one of those boats.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers reminded recreational crabbers of rule changes taking effect on Wednesday with the start of the new year. Recreational crabbers must have a 2020 shellfish license and clearly mark their surface buoys with identifying information, including their first and last name or business name and at least one of the following:

  • Permanent address
  • Phone number
  • ODFW ID number or vessel identification number

The rule changes are part of a larger package also affecting commercial crabbers and other fisheries in terms of gear requirements.

Questions can be directed to the Oregon Department of Agriculture Shellfish Hotline at 800.448.2474.

Check for recreational shellfish closures

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