Crab price dispute settled; fishers to set their pots

<p>Deckhand Lonie Davis, of Warrenton, helps secure stacks of crab pots to the deck of the Cassandra Anne Thursday at the Warrenton Marina. The Cassandra Anne will sail out from port with about 500 pots for the start of crab season.</p>

Dungeness crab fishermen along the Oregon coast will begin setting their pots in the ocean at 8 a.m. Friday, after an agreement was reached in the annual state-supervised crab price negotiations late Wednesday afternoon.

The 2012/13 crab season will officially start at 12:01 a.m. Monday, December 31, after "meat-fill" concerns triggered a month-long delay in the fishery, which normally opens on Dec. 1.

Terms of the agreement, negotiated between the state's five port crab marketing associations and four seafood processors under the supervision of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), have been reviewed and formally ratified by ODA Director Katy Coba, as required by statute.

ODA Marketing Division head Gary Roth, who along with staff, supervised the negotiations, noted that this was the seventh time in the past 10 years the bargaining process has achieved a mutually agreeable "opening price5".

"I congratulate everyone involved for working hard to find common ground and get the job done in time to get this important fishery under way," he said.

Fishing fleets in all three West Coast states were idled after pre-season tests indicated that crabs in some areas would not meet minimum "opening standards" based on meat-to-shell ratios established to insure good quality product in the marketplace.

Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission (ODCC) spokesman Hugh Link, is convinced that the delay will benefit consumers in the long run. "This year's crop needed a little more time in the ocean and although it was disappointing not to have boatloads of fresh crab for the holidays, waiting until they are nice and full was the right thing to do."

Waters in Oregon and southern Washington will be open for commercial crabbing Monday, and crabbers are hoping for good weather so they can make up for lost time. California officials recently decided to postpone the start of the northern California crab fishery until Jan. 15, as an extra precaution.

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