Crab Fishermen Get Green Light to Start Season

Story and photos by Kristine A Wong

This story was the first to break the news that after a prolonged wait, Central Coast fishermen were allowed start the Fall 2010 Dungeness crab season, after body composition tests met market requirements. It was published (with accompanying photos) as breaking news on Half Moon Bay Patch on Nov. 15, 2010.

A message written outside the Harbormaster’s office at Pillar Point Harbor today said it all. “Commercial Crab Season Opens November X??,” it read, with traces of the number “15” erased and a large X crossed out over the erased number.

But shortly before 5 pm, Duncan McLean, president of the Half Moon Bay Fisherman’s Association, said that the fishermen docked in Pillar Point Harbor would leave tomorrow at 6 am to start the season.

Though the start of the Dungeness Crab commercial fishing season legally and officially opened earlier today at midnight, local commercial fishermen at Pillar Point had been spending the day standing out on the pier instead of doing what they had originally planned to be doing at this time: crabbing.

The reason for the standoff was because local fishermen wanted to test the local crabs’ percentage of meat as part of its overall body composition to ensure that their catch would bring in stable market orders before the fleet could head out and drop their crab pots into the ocean.

“The rumors were that the crabs were not very good at all, so we wanted to get the price solidified to ensure good quality to the public and make sure the price is stable,” said Duncan McLean, president of the Half Moon Bay Fishermen’s Association.

“Usually a 22 percent portion of meat as part of the crab’s overall weight is what is needed to be marketable,” said John Draper, Assistant Harbormaster at Pillar Point Harbor.

Draper said that this morning, the crabs were sent out to be tested at North Coast Fisheries in Santa Rosa from Bodega Bay, San Francisco, and the waters outside Pillar Point Harbor.

Duncan McLean, president of the Half Moon Bay Fisherman’s Association, said earlier at 4:45 pm today that he was still waiting for the test results to come in from the crabs from Bodega Bay and San Francisco, and that a 6 am start tomorrow for the fishermen was a “definite maybe.”

Later, at 4:50 pm, after calling to confirm test results, McLean said that based on a  average of 26.84 percent in body composition tests from Bodega Bay, San Francisco, and outside Pillar Point Harbor, the fishermen were “good to go.”

Shortly after 3:30 pm this afternoon, McLean cited the test results from just the Pillar Point Harbor area when he was waiting for test results from all locations to come in. “The crabs [from outside the Pillar Point area] were good, a little over 27.4 percent,” McLean had said.

Bill Webb, who fishes off his boat Cricket (along with his dog that is named after his boat) which is based in a berth in Pillar Point Harbor, said earlier today that the fishermen were waiting to hear the official word from McLean that the fishermen had a market order based on the results of the crabs’ body composition tests.

Webb had heard the rumor that the fishermen weren’t going to be able to go out until tomorrow at 6 am. Mentions of the “6 am start” were overheard in several passing conversations around the harbor in the late afternoon.

“I’ve already got six pages of orders,” Webb said, sitting in his boat while he encouraged his dog Cricket to shake his hand with her paw. Webb sells some crab off his boat, and sells some to wholesalers.

“It’s tough,” Webb said about the state of this year’s fishing season. “Some of these guys have no salmon season…that used to be more than half my season,” he said. “So you put in more [crab] pots which cost more money…the pots come to about $200 each,” he said.

“It puts more pressure on the crab season than it can handle,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *