State regulators in California, Oregon and Washington have announced that the commercial Dungeness crab seasons will be delayed until at least Dec. 16.
On Monday, the California Department of Fish and Game announced the opener would be delayed in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties as a result of poor meat quality test results. Officials said an additional round of testing could be scheduled before Dec. 7 to determine whether the fishery can open Dec. 16 or will need to be further delayed.
Tests along the coast of Washington also revealed inadequate meat levels in most crabs, and officials announced the opener would be delayed until at least Dec. 16 to allow more time for crabs to fill with more meat.
"It's not unusual for crabs to need more time to fatten up," said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, on Nov. 20. "We'll re-evaluate in another week or two."
There were local reports that the season was being delayed once again because of elevated levels of domoic acid caused by an algae bloom, but Ayres said those reports were incorrect and that recent test results indicate crabs along the coast are safe to eat.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Oregon crab population — the opener there was delayed as a result of low meat levels as well as high domoic acid levels. That closure was announced on Oct. 20 and will also last until at least Dec. 16. This will mark the third year in a row that the state crab season has been delayed. Last year's season was delayed until Dec. 18, and the 2015-16 season didn't start until Jan. 4.
While delays over the past few years means fishermen aren't surprised by the late start, the income loss over the weeks leading up to the holiday season are still a tough burden to bear.