ILWACO — The start of the 2018-19 commercial Dungeness crab season will be delayed "through at least" Dec. 30, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Friday afternoon.
The delay is because of there not being enough meat on tested crab from some areas of the Tri-State area. The biggest problem is around Port Orford in southern Oregon, but even Long Beach Peninsula crab remain slightly below the required local level of 23 percent meat recovery.
The marine toxin domoic acid is not a factor in Washington waters this year. None was detected in Washington crab and no additional marine-toxin testing is scheduled. (This also is good news for Long Beach Peninsula razor clam fans, who on Dec. 22 may get one day of digging before the new year.)
Under the joint Dungeness management protocol for the mainland West Coast, before the commercial season is allowed to start in any waters from Point Arena in Northern California to the U.S./Canada border, tested crab must have 23 percent meat from Cascade Head in Oregon northward, and at least 25 percent southward. (Cascade Head is located just north of Lincoln City, Oregon.)
Tests on Dec. 4 found 22.8 percent meat in Long Beach Peninsula crab, just shy of the required level. Other problem areas are around Coos Bay and Port Orford in Oregon, and Trinidad and Eureka in California. Port Orford crab only had 18.9 percent meat on Dec. 3, far below the 25 percent required in that area.
The next round of meat recovery testing is targeted for completion before Dec. 21. WDFW said it will provide additional information regarding the season opening as soon as possible following the completion of the upcoming tests.
Local crabbers and their families always hope for a hefty paycheck or two before the Christmas holidays. Season-start delays are more common than not, however.
Washington’s main commercial Dungeness crab season from Klipsan Beach south to the Columbia has opened on its traditional Dec. 1 date in only seven of the past 18 years, most recently for the 2014-15 season.
Before that, there was a run of five Dec. 1 start dates from the 2006-2007 season through the 2010-2011 season. The season also started Dec. 1 for the 2003-2004 season.
Due to a variety of factors, the 2017-18 season had the latest start date ever: Jan. 15, 2018.