ILWACO — Despite fears that the commercial season opener for Dungeness crab could be further delayed, gear setting was approved to start Tuesday at 8 a.m. in the prime crabbing grounds south of Klipsan Beach, fishery managers announced over the weekend.
Crabbers between Klipsan and Cape Arago, Oregon will be able to start pulling their gear at 9 a.m. Friday. According to the marine forecast available before the Chinook Observer’s Monday publication deadline, conditions off the Peninsula could be less than ideal, with a predicted southeast wind of 20 to 25 knots, 5-foot wind waves and a 15-foot west swell.
The valuable commercial fishery traditionally starts on Dec. 1, but was delayed after tests showed crab had not filled out enough. In Oregon, from Cape Arago south to Gold Beach, crab are still below the state’s meat quality criteria and these areas will remain closed.
Test results obtained Dec. 29 found Long Beach Peninsula crab with a healthy meat proportion of 27.9 percent, appreciably up from the 22.8 percent result obtained in early December. Rough seas delayed crab sampling originally planned for Dec. 22, then delayed to Dec. 26 and delayed again to Dec. 27.
Industry sources indicated Monday that a price of $2.75 a pound was on the table from processors, with a final negotiating session planned Monday afternoon. This would be about the same as the starting price last season but down from $2.89 in the 2016-17 season. Processors initially offered a price of $2.30 for the crab coming in on Jan. 4, sources said.
Washington coast commercial crabbers landed 12.4 million pounds during the 2018 season.
The coast from Westport south to Cape Disappointment, including the Columbia River, accounted for more than half of that. Willapa Bay produced more 625,000 pounds of crab in 2018. The 2018 coastal total was about average, but down from 16.5 million pounds harvested during the 2016-17 season.
According to NOAA Fisheries’ latest comprehensive report, West Coast Dungeness crab landings in 2017 were 61.3 million pounds valued at almost $212.7 million — a decrease of 2.9 million pounds (more than 4 percent) compared with $10 million (more than 4 percent) compared with 2016.
However, both 2017 and 2016 were an improvement over 2015, when coast-wide landings were 23.9 million pounds, valued at $112 million.