Dungeness crab season to officially open in January for parts of the Oregon coast

After a month-long delay, dungeness crab season will open Jan. 1 for parts of the Oregon coast. KATU photo

ASTORIA, Ore. – After a month-long delay, the Dungeness crab season is set to open at the beginning of January in Oregon, but industry experts say these appear to be a trend and they hurt coastal communities.

Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife will open the crabbing season for the central and northern coast. Fishermen can set their pots on Jan. 1 and begin pulling them on Jan. 4. It was supposed to open on Dec. 1.

Officials delayed the season because there was not enough meat in the crabs. Rough weather also delayed testing. If all goes according to plan, you may be able to find crab in the markets by about Jan. 10, according to sellers.

Several commercial fishermen were loading their boats Sunday in Warrenton. They say delays are tough on their bottom line.

“You're just sitting idle, that's what kind of kills you,” said Jeff Middleton, a commercial fisherman.

Middleton fishes for several species, but he says Dungeness crab are his “bread and butter.” Costs add up during the delays.

“Financially, you're hoping for December. Everything just keeps costing more money, sitting on moorage, the boat could be doing other fishing,” Middleton said.

Whole communities can be affected by the delays too.

“It's very difficult, for especially the smaller vessels and deck hands to make it through the winter,” said Cari Brandburg, Treasurer for Newport Fisherman’s Wives, an industry advocacy group. “Of course, it affects other businesses as well as people who don't have the money to go shopping for Christmas.”

Brandburg also works at Chelsea Rose Seafood in Newport. She says delays to the crabbing season are happening more often and families are beginning to prepare for them.

For decades, Oregonians expected to get Dungeness Crab by Christmas, but that has been rare recently.

“A large part of our business was selling crab over Christmas and it has definitely affected our customers,” said Brandburg. “We get lots of questions of when there will be crab, and there is a lot of uncertainty in the season.”

Still, the crab business in Oregon appears to be good. Last year, fishermen brought in a record high of $74.2 million in ex-vessel value.

Now buyers and sellers must agree on a price for the crab.

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