Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) officials say they expect the state’s Commercial Dungeness crab fishery season to open from Cape Falcon to Cape Arago on Jan. 15, having passed required tests for those crabs being ready to harvest.
The season opener from Cape Falcon north to Washington state, in accordance with the Tri-State protocol, is scheduled to open Feb. 1.
ODFW officials said this past week that meat fill now meets or exceeds criteria in all areas of Oregon, and biotoxins are below alert levels in all crab tested from Cape Arago north. Domoic acid testing of crab was to continue from Cape Arago south to the California border. Test results through Jan. 7 showed elevated levels of the biotoxin in that area.
ODFW works closely with the crab industry, the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission and the Oregon Department of Agriculture on testing and season openings. It also coordinates with state agencies in California and Washington to create an orderly start to the commercial crab season within the Tri-State region.
Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission Executive Director Tim Novotny noted the importance of being able to deliver a level of certainty in the product to the marketplace to start the fishery, for the benefit of industry and consumer confidence in the product.
He said Oregon’s Dungeness crab fishery is recognized worldwide for its sustainable fisheries practices.
“The work we do with ODFW, and the hard work and cooperation of the fleet helps us continue to work to solidify our reputation on sustainability, which is a huge benefit for the fleet and coastal communities year-round,” he stated.
Both Novotny and Caren Braby, ODFW’s marine resources program manager, have said that generally the fleet and industry support later season openings when necessary to ensure crab are ready. This season has been just such a situation and industry has overwhelmingly supported waiting until now for the season to start.
ODFW officials noted that the earliest the commercial crab season can open by regulation is Dec. 1, pending meat fill and biotoxin results. In recent years, that has been rare – 2021 was the first time since 2014 the fishery opened Dec. 1.
During 2020-2021, the season opened in stages (Dec.16th, 2020 south of Cape Falcon; Feb. 15, 2021, north of Cape Falcon). Fishermen brought in 12.2 million pounds of Dungeness crab coastwide with an ex-vessel value of $60.6 million. The 2021-2022 season brought in just over 17 million pounds of crab with a $91.5 million ex-vessel value, according to DFW data: https://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2023/01_Jan/010623.asp.