F/V Cutting Edge captain Brian Cutting inspects his catch

F/V Cutting Edge Captain Brian Cutting inspected his catch as it was offloaded this past February at Ilwaco Landing.

LONG BEACH — Dungeness crab in Long Beach Peninsula waters have the lowest percentage of meat in at least six years of late-October testing.

This is bad news for the traditional Dec. 1 opening date, which has often proved illusory in the past two decades.

Samples gathered Oct. 24 in the south of Klipsan area had a pick-out rate of 18.7%. Last year, crab gathered on Oct. 23 in the local test area had a meat-recovery rate of 19.1%, which itself was considered very low. This compares to 20.9% in 2018, 19.9% in 2017, 23% in 2016 and 23.8% in 2015.

Samples from the Westport area collected this Oct. 23 tested at 19.6%, compared to 21% in October 2019, 19.7% in 2018, 20.2% in 2017, 22.9% in 2016 and 24% in 2015.

All areas must be at least 23% before a commercial crabbing season can commence under terms of the Tri-State protocol that governs crabbing in the waters of Washington, Oregon and California.

Due to covid restrictions and the limited number of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife crew who could be on board the test boats, WDFW did not collect any shell condition data. Most local Dungeness crab are still at a soft-shell stage in October after molting in the summer and early fall.

Dungeness crab are the most valuable fishery in Washington and Oregon, with many local families heavily dependent on the winter crab harvest for things like mortgage and pickup payments, and Christmas gifts.

Washington’s most lucrative commercial Dungeness crab area from Klipsan Beach south to the Columbia has opened on its traditional Dec. 1 date in only seven of the past 20 years, most recently for the 2014-15 season.

Before that, there was a run of five Dec. 1 start dates from the 2006-07 season through the 2010-11 season. The season also started Dec. 1 for the 2003-04 season. The 2017-18 season had the latest start ever: Jan. 15, 2018. The 2018-19 season got underway on Jan. 4, and the first crab of the 2019-20 season were delivered at the Port of Peninsula on Dec. 31, 2019 and at the Port of Ilwaco on Jan. 2.

Only WDFW exercised the option per the Tri-State Agreement with Oregon and California to conduct an October test. Oregon and California plan tests in November. The first required round of testing per the Tri-State Agreement will be completed sometime before Thanksgiving.

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