A commercial crab fishing season that was delayed for two weeks is drawing mixed reviews in the opening days. The quality of crab is great, experts say, but for fishermen and processors the season may be just average.
The season was delayed two weeks, after preseason testing showed the crab needed a little more time to fill with meat. It started at 12:01 a.m. Monday, after a pricing agreement was reached last Wednesday through annual state-supervised negotiations.
Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission Executive Director Hugh Link said the price opened at $2.65 a pound, but without a locked-in time so that it can change as market conditions warrant.
Oregon Department of Agriculture Business Development Manager Jerry Gardner, who along with staff supervised the negotiations, noted that this was the eighth time in the past 11 years the bargaining process has achieved a mutually agreeable opening price. This year’s price reflects a 15 percent increase over last year’s negotiated agreement.
“I congratulate everyone involved for working hard to find common ground and get the job done in time to get this important fishery underway,” Gardner said.
Terms, negotiated between the state’s five port crab marketing associations and five seafood processors, have been reviewed and formally ratified by ODA Director Katy Coba, as required by statute.
As of Tuesday afternoon Hallmark Fisheries production manager Scott Adams said that price was still holding.
Adams has seen great years and bad years for the commercial crab fishery on the Oregon Coast; he says this one is shaping up as one that will land somewhere in the middle.
“The crab are out there, but you have to work this year. This year, experience is going to pay,” Adams said by phone on Tuesday. “I just think this is going to be more of a normal average year. All of us are going to have to work together to make it successful.”
Early indications, he says, are showing that it might be a little slower from California up to Brookings. Things start looking better from Port Orford to Newport, although it is still pretty spotty.
However, the crab that are being found, he says, will make a great holiday meal.
Link agrees. “Based on the preseason testing that has been done, there is no doubt that Oregon Dungeness crab are ready for market. Consumers can be assured that top quality Dungeness crab will be delivered to all Oregon ports.”
“You can’t top a record season every year,” Adams said, “I just hope (this one’s) successful for everybody involved.”