PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced that the state’s commercial crabbing season will see a partial opening on Jan. 15 from Cape Falcon in Tillamook County to Cape Arago in Coos County.
The news comes after more than a month of delays caused by dangerously high domoic acid levels and undesirably low meat levels among Dungeness crab populations in the Western Pacific. The commercial season will open from Cape Falcon to the Washington border on Feb. 1, per the tri-state protocol agreed upon by Oregon, Washington and California, as tested crabs in the region reportedly now meet industry standards. California’s Commercial crabbing season opened statewide on Dec. 31, 2022.
Executive Director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission Tim Novotny said the seasonal fishing delays aren’t ideal for the industry, but that the quality testing is crucial for maintaining consumer confidence year after year.
“Look, everyone wants to start Dec. 1,” Novotny said. “But the fishermen know that this process sets a high bar on purpose, so consumers know they’re getting the highest quality and safest product possible.”
Preferred Dec. 1 openings, which allow crabbers to set prices and get meat into markets during the holiday season, have become uncommon in recent years. The industry has seen one undelayed, coastwide opening since 2014.
ODFW Marine Resources Program Manager Caren Braby said that the industry’s patience and cooperation has allowed the region to maintain sustainable fishing practices.
“I’m proud of the crab fishery and our management of this iconic symbol of the Oregon coast,” Braby said. “By working with [the] industry on the problems we’ve faced – from biotoxins, whale entanglements, and climate change – we’re crafting a stronger fishery that will stand the test of time.”
Fishermen in Oregon, Washington and California caught 12.2 million pounds of Dungeness crab worth $60.6 million during the 2020-2021 season. During the undelayed 2021-2022 season, local crabbers gathered more than 17 million pounds of crab worth an estimated $91.5 million.