PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The second round of domoic acid and meat-quality testing for Dungeness crabs in Oregon, Washington and California is scheduled to conclude Tuesday as the commercial crabbing industry waits for an opening date.
The results, which Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say are likely to be published by Wednesday, will determine if the coast’s commercial Dungeness crab season will open — or if the industry can expect more delays. Initially scheduled to begin on Dec. 1, ODFW announced on Nov. 18 that the 2022-2023 commercial crab season would be delayed across the West Coast after annual pre-season tests revealed high levels of domoic acid and low meat yields in coastal crab populations.
“Domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin produced by certain types of algae, can be harmful or even fatal to humans if contaminated shellfish is consumed,” the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has stated.
The delays have become a common issue for the local crabbing industry.
While fishermen saw a prompt Dec. 1 opening during the 2021-2022 season, eight of the last 10 seasons have resulted in partial or coastwide delays. Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission spokesperson Tim Novotny told KOIN 6 News that it’s too early to know if the delays will impact holiday crab prices.
“Fishermen, not universally, but generally, are taking it in stride,” Novotny said. “Sure, they would love to have everything fall in place like last season, but last season was the outlier. The fishermen want to make certain they have a high-quality product ready for market. And they know that, unfortunately, more often than not, that has meant having to wait.”
ODFW marine resources spokesperson Meghan Meghan Dugan told KOIN 6 that she can’t say at this time if the industry is likely to receive good or bad news on Wednesday, when officials will meet with tri-State managers to decide on continued coastwide delays or a piecemeal start to the season based on regional results.
“Once we get results, we will confer with California and Washington on Wednesday and will announce openings [or] delays,” Dugan said.
Oregon’s latest testing update, published on Dec. 1, showed that crab meat yields in Port Orford and Brookings had almost reached the industry standard of 9 to 10 ounces of meat per crab for crabs weighing 2.5 pounds (a meat harvest of 23 to 25%). However, the results were slightly low, with an average meat harvest of 20.7% and 21%, respectively.
Crabs in Central Oregon met industry meat standards during the first round of testing. No testing update has been provided for Oregon’s northern coast.
As of Dec. 1, crabs had been collected from most of Oregon’s fishing zones for domoic acid testing. No updates are available for domoic acid levels at this time.