Pots are being prepared for crab season

Crab pots will sit in local storage yards for now.

LONG BEACH — West Coast Dungeness crab Tri-State managers on Nov. 13 delayed the start of the 2019-20 season until at least Dec. 15 because crab are slow to put on meat this year.

The delay will affect the coast from from Point Arena, California north to the U.S./Canada border.

Tri-State Dungeness Crab Pre-Season Testing Protocols specify that after the first round of testing, if any area does not meet the minimum meat recovery criteria — 23% north of Cascade Head and 25% south of Cascade Head — a delay is required and additional testing is required before a season opening date can be set.

Testing in the first week of November found no crab in the coastal area currently meet those criteria. Crab off Westport came closest to meeting the standard, having improved from 20.97% on Oct. 24 to 22.6% on Nov. 7. Off the Long Beach Peninsula, meat proportion improved from 19.1% on Oct. 23 to 20.4% on Nov. 6. Testing off Clatsop County found 20.3% on Nov. 6, and Garibaldi crab were at 21% on Nov. 5.

The marine toxin domoic acid is at a negligible and safe level in Washington state crab.

Another round of both meat recovery and domoic acid testing is scheduled to be conducted in late November and/or early December. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said it will provide additional information regarding the season opening as soon as possible following the completion of the upcoming tests. Tri-State consists of WDFW, plus the fish and wildlife agencies of Oregon and California.

Delays par for the course

Local crabbers and their families always hope for a hefty paycheck or two before the Christmas holidays, but season-start delays are more common than not.

Besides not reaching the 23% meat requirement, season starts are sometimes delayed due to price negotiations with processors. Some recent seasons have faced delays due to the presence of the marine toxin domoic acid, which crab ingest from clams and other things they eat.

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 19 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. Last season got underway on Jan. 4, 2019.

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