Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, March 4 @ 12:23 p.m. / Ocean

Commercial Fishermen Land $20 Million in Dungeness Crab in Crescent City

Crescent City's commercial Dungeness crab catch is up this season... by a lot. Photo by Kevin Cole via Wikimedia Commons | Creative Commons license.

Local commercial fishermen have landed more than $20 million worth of Dungeness crab in Crescent City as of late February, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

It’s not quite as high as the $40 million in crab the Crescent City Harbormaster reported Tuesday, but it’s a significant improvement from last year when local fishermen landed roughly $1.7 million worth of crab at Citizens Dock, according to Christy Juhasz, CDFW environmental scientist.

“This is largely driven by an increased average price per pound this season, along with much higher pounds landed compared to last season’s totals that garnered just under $2 million in ex-vessel value (EVV),” Juhasz told the Wild Rivers Outpost. “A huge portion of total pounds and EVV for this season is derived from the Crescent City area.”

Commercial fishermen statewide have landed $51.1 million worth of Dungeness crab as of Feb. 28, Juhasz said, though that is subject to change.

So far this season, Crescent City Dungeness fishermen have brought in more than 4 million pounds of crab and are receiving an average price of $5.22 per pound. Last year, though the average price was $5.50 per pound, fishermen landed 349,200 pounds in Crescent City.

The Crescent City Harbor District receives 1 cent per pound of crab landed at the port, according to Harbormaster Tim Petrick.

Harbor Commissioner Rick Shepherd, who is also president of the Del Norte Commercial Fishermans Marketing Association, said the high price he and other fishermen are receiving for their catch is due to a high demand in crab.

That demand is fueled by an overall shortage in crab as well as last year’s poor season, Shepherd told the Outpost.

“I hope we can maintain a price similar to that because I’ve always believed Dungeness crab was worth more than what we were getting,” he said. “You look at king crab, snow crab, they’re all $5, $6, $7 — Dungeness crab is as good as anything on the market.”

Shepherd said he did have concerns about crab caught in California but winds up being brought ashore in Brookings, Oregon. He said he wondered if that crab would “add to our poundage or if it would even make a difference.”

Much of the landing totals between Crescent City and Brookings crab vessels are not always accounted for in either state, Juhasz said. Fishermen can fill out a form to bring their catch to ports outside of the state, but it does not account for the species and total landings, she said.

“Oregon landing receipts do have location codes to designate California-caught crab while California’s landing receipts have both Oregon and Washington location codes for Oregon-caught or Washington-caught crab landed in California respectively,” Juhasz told the Outpost. “Oregon, Washington and California have been trying to keep track of Dungeness crab permitted vessel activity that share more than one state permit for recent past seasons by looking up where they are landing, not from where fish were caught.”

A new reporting requirement asks vessels to report their trap usage in California every two weeks, under CDFW’s Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program, set up to respond to whale entanglement risks, according to Juhasz.

This new requirement has shed light on vessels that report their pot usage in California, but land out of state, Juhasz said. It has also highlighted out-of-state landings that have been coded incorrectly as occurring in California, she said.

Crescent City crab fishermen began fishing on Dec. 1, 2021 — on time for the first time since 2014. The commercial Dungeness season lasts through July 15, however whale entanglement risks often shuts fishing down early, according to Shepherd.

On Wednesday, however, Shepherd estimated that more than 95 percent of the season’s overall catch has been landed already.

“You won’t see that many more pounds put in,” he told the Outpost. “The value might be fairly good because the price is escalating as production goes down.”


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